RealClearPolitics Articles

Don't Take The Onion's Pessimism Too Seriously

Michael Barone - February 23, 2018

"Study: 90 Percent Of Americans Strongly Opposed To Each Other." That's the headline on a story in what, on some days, seems to be America's most reliable news outlet, The Onion.

We laugh (or at least I did) because it strikes a chord. Americans of many different political outlooks today seem united in believing that we are experiencing the worst times in the nation's history. President Donald Trump's detractors talk about how he's a neurotic neo-Nazi establishing a dictatorship. Trump's fans talk about the existence of a deep state that uses secret protocols to undermine voters' choices.

Both sides have some cause for complaint. But their claims are overheated. Anyone familiar with the long course of American history -- perhaps a smaller category than in times past -- knows that, whatever our problems, things have been worse, far worse, before.

Many of us look back to a time when Americans shared a consensus on cultural values and when we are told that high school graduates or even dropouts could easily snag well-paying blue-collar jobs. That's a reasonably accurate description of America in the 1950s on cultural values and of parts of America -- the unionized industrial areas -- on those jobs.

Trump and the GOP Won't Act on Gun Control. So We Must.

Eugene Robinson - February 23, 2018

WASHINGTON -- They won't do anything meaningful about guns until you force them to with your votes.

This time, following the Parkland massacre, does feel different from all the other times. But I fear the outcome will always be the same -- thoughts, prayers, furrowed brows and no real action -- until the Republicans who control Congress and so many state legislatures start losing elections because of their obstinacy on gun control.

They need to fear you and me more than they fear the National Rifle Association.

No amount of moral suasion will work. The slaughter of 20 first-graders in Newtown, the murder of 58 innocent country music fans in Las Vegas, the near-fatal shooting of one of their own, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. -- no atrocity has been senseless or vile enough to shame the GOP into doing something to keep military-style assault weapons out of killers' hands. Why should the deadly rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School be the tipping point?

School Shooting Solutions

Adriana Cohen - February 23, 2018

As almighty as the government thinks it is, it can't legislate hate away. It can't eradicate mental illness, undo a bad childhood or make an evil person good.

But what it can do in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Parkland -- the worst in Florida's history -- is implement a series of common-sense measures to keep our kids safe in school. The first would be addressing gun laws that allowed the accused Parkland shooter to legally purchase an assault rifle despite the fact that he'd been treated for mental illness and behavioral problems; posted violent threats on social media, including saying he wanted to be a "professional school shooter"; and displayed other red flags that should've restricted his ability to buy a firearm of any kind.

At this juncture, Americans ought to come to a consensus that gun control isn't a Republican or Democratic issue; it's a common-sense issue. Dangerous individuals with a long history of troubling behavior shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun. Period.

Some strict Second Amendment advocates will argue that tougher gun laws wouldn't stop criminals from getting guns illegally on the black market. This is true, and the gun violence in Chicago, a city with tough gun laws, is a prime example. But tougher gun laws would've blocked the accused Parkland shooter from legally buying a gun, and that fact must not be overlooked.

Protect Kids or Confiscate Guns?

Patrick Buchanan - February 23, 2018

In days gone by, a massacre of students like the atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would have brought us together.

But like so many atrocities before it, this mass murder is tearing us apart.

The perpetrator, the sick and evil 19-year-old who killed 17 innocents with a gun is said to be contrite.

Having confessed, he faces life in prison. For the next half-century, Nikolas Cruz will be fed, clothed, sheltered and medicated at the expense of Florida taxpayers, including the families of those he murdered.

CNN's Shameful Town Hall Is a Clarifying Moment on Guns

David Harsanyi - February 23, 2018

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA and anyone who didn't say exactly what they wanted to hear. It was an event where a student could compare Sen. Marco Rubio to a mass murderer and question whether NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch truly cares about her children without ever being challenged.

I hope CNN got the rating it was looking for, because it's almost guaranteed that NRA membership and gun sales are about to spike.

Between all the demonizing, heckling, sophistry, gaslighting, platitudes and emotional appeals, members of the crowd -- people who should never be the target of conspiracy theories or ad hominem attacks but shouldn't be exempted from a real debate either -- booed a rape survivor's story and cheered at the idea of banning "every semi-automatic rifle in America." Maybe someone will ask them if they support banning every semi-automatic in America period, since the latter is responsible for the preponderance of gun homicides. One death is too many, after all.

Whatever the case, these young people are about to be hit by a harsh reality, because banning semi-automatic rifles or handguns is not only impractical and likely unconstitutional but, for many millions of Americans who worry about the Second Amendment, also highly undesirable.

Syria Desperately Needs a Pathway to Stability

David Ignatius - February 23, 2018

MUNICH -- The abiding image from last weekend's security conference here was of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu theatrically brandishing a piece of an Iranian drone shot down over Israel a week before -- and starkly warning Tehran: "Do not test Israel's resolve."

Are Israel and Iran heading toward war, in their new jockeying for influence amid the rubble of Syria? Probably not, but a delicate game of brinkmanship has certainly begun. Policymakers in Washington, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tehran are struggling to define and communicate the rules.

The Israel-Iran confrontation is the most dangerous new factor in Syria, which has become a gruesome cockpit once again after some months of relative quiet. The Syrian regime is now trying to crush resistance in Ghouta, east of Damascus, where rebels once had support from the CIA but are now struggling on their own. The bloodbath there has been horrific, and the U.N. Security Council on Thursday debated a resolution for a 30-day cease-fire. Russia resisted, evidently wanting to complete the bloody campaign.

This grim new phase of the Syrian conflict is a replay of the siege of Aleppo -- with the added new danger of a regional war between Israel and Iran. It's this latter problem that most concerns U.S. and Israeli officials, especially after the shootdown of an Israeli F-16 during a retaliatory strike after the Iranian drone incident.

Graham, Guns and Common Tongue

Erick Erickson - February 23, 2018

The Rev. Billy Graham is now with his Creator. I suspect there will be no more men who can transcend the divides of this country in the way Graham could. He was unique in his ability to share the gospel through radio, television and even the internet. He did so with an intensity in charm that one lacking familiarity with his message could capture his point while those who were intimately familiar with the faith could fall deeply in love with it.

To the extent Graham's death has elicited criticism and attack, much of it has to do with his common man approach. Some were left wanting. Others see a common man who garnered uncommon attention and think there must be something fraudulent about him. Elite opinion makers and leaders, often drawn to worldly comfort and not gospel suffering, have a hard time relating to Graham because they have a hard time relating to the common man.

That lack of ability to relate to common people is also one reason we see elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives. Planned Parenthood gets a government subsidy to cover the costs of rich, white hedonism. Therefore, it must be protected at all cost. The NRA, on the other hand, likely has its sticker on the back of a gas guzzling pickup truck, and must be evil.

Into this modern American divide, it is hard to see how a new Billy Graham could take hold. The phenomenon of the Bill Graham crusade seems only possible in a post-World War II world where Americans still shared a common tongue of idiomatic expressions. We have become so tribal that it is hard to imagine many people able to transcend their tribe. It is harder still to imagine anyone claiming Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life being able to transcend the divide.

In Facing Russia, We Don't Even Have a Neville Chamberlain

Froma Harrop - February 22, 2018

"Darkest Hour" follows Winston Churchill's struggle to rouse Britain to confront the Nazi menace. Winning the war was step two. Step one, the movie's theme, was to get the country to agree to wage war.

And he did no buttering. "I have nothing to offer," Churchill famously told his nation, "but blood, toil, tears and sweat." And that's what it got as the price for saving civilization.

There's no mention of Donald Trump, obviously, but it's hard to see the movie without feeling some heartbreak for an America now enduring a dark hour -- that is, Russia's ravaging of our democratic core. Our political culture is under threat, but we have no Churchill to fight back.

We don't even have a Neville Chamberlain. With the World War I bloodbath still haunting Europe, Chamberlain held that appeasing Hitler would save Britain from annihilation by the superior German war machine. But he never questioned who was behind the Nazi peril.

The Paradoxes of the Mueller Investigation

Victor Davis Hanson - February 22, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals for allegedly conspiring to sow confusion in the 2016 presidential election. The chance of extraditing any of the accused from Vladimir Putin's Russia is zero.

Some of the Russians' Keystone Cops efforts to disrupt the election favored Donald Trump (as well as Bernie Sanders). Yet Mueller's team made it clear that the Russians neither colluded with any U.S. citizens nor had any material effect on the election's outcome.

But from here on out, there will be ironies, paradoxes and unintended consequences with just about everything Mueller does.

Is it now time to prosecute foreigners for attempting to interfere with a U.S. election? If so, then surely Christopher Steele, the author of the Fusion GPS dossier, is far more culpable and vulnerable than the 13 bumbling Russians.

Gun Violence

Armstrong Williams - February 22, 2018

The reality is that if we knew what leads to mass shootings at high schools, the problem would already have been resolved - sadly, we don't. We need to address all of the factors that contribute to these circumstances, methodically and as part of a systemic approach, not as a series of bullet point solutions.

Are guns to blame, or is it mental illness that's often overlooked? This is the reoccurring question that we as a nation ask ourselves when innocent children die in high school mass shootings. Are we really serious about minimizing the most dangerous places for violence in America? What is our priority? Parents want to see change that leads to overwhelmingly positive outcomes, not the political rhetoric and grandstanding that often shape these conversations.

Within hours of the Florida shooting, some on the left were quick to call for massive gun control, arguing that it could have prevented what occurred. However, no evidence suggests that is ever the case. For example, Chicago has an assault-weapons ban in Cook County, and at one point, even banned handguns in the city limits altogether until a 2008 Supreme Court ruling.

However, despite Chicago's strict laws on the types of guns an individual can have, or even its attempts to outlaw guns in the city altogether, there were more than 4,000 shooting victims in the city of Chicago in 2016 according to NPR, and the city continues to suffer from a massive amount of gun crimes.

Race and Sports: It's Not 1947 Anymore. Let's Not Pretend That It Is

Larry Elder - February 22, 2018

ESPN recently re-aired a three-part documentary about the long rivalry between two storied NBA basketball teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, and their two marquee players, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, respectively.

After another devastating Laker loss, this time in the 1984 finals, Laker star Magic Johnson said he felt so disappointed, in part, because he let down blacks. So many black fans were pulling for him, including, he discovered, many black residents of Boston.

As a Los Angeles native, I, too, wanted the Lakers to win. But how did the Lakers of the era become the "black team" and how did the Bird-led team become the "white team"? Sure, the Celtics were led by Bird -- a white player -- but the Celtics' coach, K.C. Jones, was black, as were several key players, including guards Dennis Johnson and Gerald Henderson, as well as center Robert Parrish and forward Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell. Meanwhile, the Lakers' head coach was Pat Riley, a white man.

No doubt many whites pulled for Bird because he's white. As a white friend and Larry Bird fan once told me, "White people have pride, too." And no doubt that many black people pulled for Magic Johnson over Bird because Johnson is black. Who cares? Something can be racial without being racist. One black Celtic player said it bothered him that some blacks considered him to be playing for a "white team." But another black player, M.L. Carr, said he could not have cared less about the black-versus-white nonsense and just wanted to beat Los Angeles.

Redrawn Pa. Maps Add Uncertainty to Special Election

James Arkin - February 22, 2018

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s redrawing of congressional district maps this week threw confusion and uncertainty into the competitive and closely watched special election for a House seat in Western Pennsylvania next month.

The new maps do not alter the district lines or ballots for the March 13 election in the 18th Congressional District. But the change for November has implications both minor and far reaching that could affect both the outcome next month and the approach from both parties to races in the area come the midterms.

Republicans are challenging the redrawn lines, which are said to benefit Democrats, in the U.S. Supreme Court, adding another layer of confusion as both sides wait to see whether the state court’s action will prevail.

“It’s another thing you have to do in that maelstrom of a special election,” said Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Republican strategist in the state. “Specials are always very special and can be pains in the butt, and this is another level of pain for folks in both camps.”

Time to Change the Election Game

Scott Rasmussen - February 22, 2018

For political junkies, Monday's release of a new map for Pennsylvania's Congressional Districts was one of the biggest news events of the 2018 midterm elections. The State Supreme Court imposed new District boundaries for every single district in the state and created more opportunities for Democrats.

The impact of this ruling has national implications. Prior to the new Pennsylvania map, the projections at showed that even with a decent midterm turnout for the Democrats, the GOP might cling to a narrow 219-216 majority in the House of Representatives. With the new map, the same projections show the Democrats picking up three more seats and winning control of Congress.

Of course, there's a long way to go until November and the battle for control of Congress may not end up as close as it appears today. But the fact that a court ruling in a single state could alter control of Congress reveals a much deeper problem with American politics. Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote has spent years stating the uncomfortable truth that "American voters don't select their Representatives, the Representatives select the voters."

More precisely, both Republicans and Democrats draw district boundaries to select groups of voters who will vote for their team. While there will be elections in all 435 House Districts this year, the way the boundaries were drawn pre-ordained the winner in at least 390 of them. In November, over 90% of voters will have no meaningful choice and no say as to who represents them in Washington. That's why Members of Congress typically have more job security than a tenured college professor.

Gun Control Is About Saving Lives, Not Waging Culture Wars

E.J. Dionne - February 22, 2018

WASHINGTON -- You have perhaps heard the joke about the liberal who is so open-minded that he can't even take his own side in an argument.

What's less funny is that on gun control, liberals (and their many allies who are moderate, conservative and non-ideological) have been told for years that if they do take their own side in the argument, they will only hurt their cause.

Supporters of even modest restrictions on firearms are regularly instructed that their ardent advocacy turns off Americans in rural areas and small towns. Those in favor of reforming our firearms laws are scolded as horrific elitists who disrespect a valued way of life.

And as the mass killings continue, we are urged to be patient and to spend our time listening earnestly to the views of those who see even a smidgen of action to limit access to guns as the first step toward confiscation. Our task is not to fight for laws to protect innocents, but to demonstrate that we really, honestly, truly, cross-our-hearts, positively love gun owners and wouldn't for an instant think anything ill of them.

Gun Politics Stir Up Florida Midterm Races

Caitlin Huey-Burns - February 22, 2018

In the wake of last week's school shooting that left 17 people dead and sparked an unprecedented wave of youth activism about guns in America, Florida finds itself at the center of the political universe.

In the more immediate term, the Republican-led state legislature is under pressure to consider proposals spurred by the mass shooting before the legislative session ends on March 9;  the outcome could be a harbinger for federal gun measures. And it could also shape high-profile races in November, as the state will be hosting competitive contests for governor, U.S. Senate and multiple congressional seats.

For example, term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott is expected to challenge Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is likely to wage a bid for governor, facing a primary against Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is backed by President Trump, and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has made gun-owner rights a pillar of his campaign.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates for these offices are united in calling for a ban on assault weapons and enhancing other gun-control policies, a signal of where their base is on the issue even in a purple state.

Trump Pushes Low-Cost Obamacare Alternative Health Plans

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar - February 22, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration Tuesday spelled out a plan to lower the cost of health insurance: give consumers the option of buying less coverage in exchange for reduced premiums.

The proposed regulations would expand an alternative to the comprehensive medical plans required under former President Barack Obama’s health law. Individuals could buy so-called “short-term” policies for up to 12 months. But the coverage would omit key consumer protections and offer fewer benefits, making it unattractive for older people or those with health problems.

The plans would come with a disclaimer that they don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s safeguards, such as guaranteed coverage, ten broad classes of benefits, and limits on how much older adults have to pay. Insurers could also charge more if a consumer’s medical history discloses health problems.

Nonetheless, administration officials said they believe the short-term option will be welcomed by people who need an individual health insurance policy but don’t qualify for the ACA’s income-based subsidies.

Trump Hosts Listening Session on Gun Violence With Students, Teachers, Families

Matthew Daly - February 22, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spilling out wrenching tales of lost lives and stolen security, students and parents appealed to President Donald Trump to set politics aside and protect America’s school children from the scourge of gun violence. Trump listened intently to the raw emotion and pledged action, including the possibility of arming teachers.

“I turned 18 the day after” the shooting, said a tearful Samuel Zeif, a student at the Florida high school where a former student’s assault left 17 dead last week. “Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. And I don’t understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war. An AR. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How do we not stop this after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?”

Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks.” And he suggested he supported allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons to be ready for intruders.

On Twitter Thursday, Trump continued to discuss arming teachers and others at schools, though said that didn’t mean giving guns to all teachers.

Gun Politics; PA-18 Confusion; Mueller and the Dossier; Father Knew Best

Carl M. Cannon - February 22, 2018

Good morning, it’s Thursday, February 22, 2018, the day officially recognized as George Washington’s birthday. When I was growing up, this birthday was celebrated on its own, as was Abraham Lincoln’s February 12 birthday. Today, they’re lumped together as Presidents’ Day, but I’m interested this morning in George Washington’s boyhood.

Yes, I’m referring to the infamous cherry tree story. Let’s cut to the chase: No matter what the revisionists tell you, the tale is probably true. It’s not really about kids who are too virtuous to lie, either. It’s about parenting -- how to raise virtuous young men and women.

For those of you who read this note faithfully, this may ring a bell. That’s because I’ve written it before -- as recently as last year, in fact -- and I’m going to keep doing so until my version catches on. It’s not just my interpretation, either. The great historian Garry Wills agrees with me, as you’ll see (again) in a moment.

First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

Could Armed Teachers Stop Shootings?

Carolyn Thompson - February 22, 2018

(AP) -- In the aftermath of yet another mass school shooting, President Donald Trump says that if one of the victims, a football coach, had been armed “he would have shot and that would have been the end of it.”

Revisiting an idea he raised in his campaign, Trump’s comments in favor of allowing teachers to be armed come as lawmakers in several states are wrestling with the idea, including in Florida, where the 17 most recent school shooting victims are being mourned.

Assistant football coach Aaron Feis, hailed for shielding students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, “was very brave,” Trump said Wednesday during a listening session with parents and survivors of school shootings. “If he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run.”

Florida Republican Sen. Greg Steube said gun-free zones like schools are easy targets and has proposed allowing specially trained educators with military or law enforcement backgrounds to be armed.

Manufacturers to American Workers: We're Hiring

Jay Timmons - February 21, 2018

For manufacturers in America, the past year has been transformational. We hear it every day from manufacturers of all types, from large iconic brands in big cities to family-owned businesses in small towns: We’ve never been this optimistic about the future. 

At the end of 2017, the National Association of Manufacturers surveyed its membership and the results were recording-breaking. Almost 95 percent of respondents felt positive about the outlook of their businesses — an all-time high in the survey’s 20-year history. 

Manufacturing is in the spotlight, with elected leaders and the American people cheering for us. Demonstrating where manufacturers sit in today’s America, three of the guests of honor for President Trump’s State of the Union address were manufacturers — Steve Staub, Sandy Keplinger and Corey Adams from Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio. 

Manufacturers’ newfound confidence didn’t happen by accident. Major developments in Washington, D.C., dramatically improved the business climate in the United States, most notably regulatory relief and, at the end of the year, historic tax reform.