OXON HILL, Md. -- The first "people" I recognized on arriving at last week's Conservative Political Action Committee gathering just outside Washington were two "stormtroopers" and a Wookiee from the 1977 film "Star Wars."
Some of the speeches also expressed sentiments from the past, though not as cleverly as those in costume: Obama is a bad president, even a bad man. America looks weak before the world. Government is too big and taxes too high. "The Force" seemed to have left the building, or perhaps it never arrived.
Kathleen Willey is back. For people who have forgotten, she is the former volunteer aide to President Bill Clinton who claims he sexually harassed her 20 years ago. She wrote a book about it called "Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton."
What, you say you didn't read it? Neither, it seems, did most of America, which long ago yawned at Bill Clinton's exploits and Hillary's apparent enabling of his extramarital liaisons.
With less than a year left in her fourth and final term in Congress, it's a little early for an exit interview, but not too early to get the views of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on issues dear to a "founding mother" of the Tea Party movement and on how to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, if the Democrat decides to run.
Bachmann remains confident and resolute despite many political setbacks. We met in her office while much of Congress was fleeing the Capitol Building ahead of a major storm that eventually dumped a foot of snow on Washington. The snow was a big deal to residents of the nation's capital, but little more than flurries to a Minnesotan like Bachmann.
In a world where Woody Allen can get a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes at the same time his adopted daughter accuses him of sexually abusing her when she was a child (Allen has repeatedly denied it), and where a film "The Wolf of Wall Street" sets a record for use of the F-word, it is a wonderment that an obscure, low-budget film called "Alone Yet Not Alone" has had its Best Original Song Oscar nomination withdrawn for allegedly violating ethical rules.
Everyone "knows" it is conservatives who are mean-spirited, intolerant, censors of speech with which they don't agree, anti-gay, anti-black and anti just about everything else, right? We know this because the left keeps telling us so.
Which is why in this era of increasingly corrosive language -- note the overuse of the f-word in the film "The Wolf of Wall Street" -- and acidic political discourse, recent comments by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), ought to shock and outrage everyone, regardless of party affiliation or ideology.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- While the Obama administration offers life support to its Affordable Care Act, in the UK a growing number of people are asking whether it's time to pull the plug on the National Health Service (NHS), which is in critical condition.
For many years the UK media have carried stories that not only bode ill for the future of government-run health care, but also continue to serve as a "code blue" warning to the U.S. as to what might be in our future if we decide to go down that road.
Select the scandal(s) that affects the most people and has long-term implications for the country in a time of war, a country with a struggling economy that last month produced the weakest job growth in decades. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 92 million Americans are no longer in the labor force.)
In his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a "war on poverty." Today, with roughly the same number of people below the poverty level as in 1964 and with many addicted to government "benefits," robbing them of a work ethic, it is clear that the poor have mostly lost the war.
In 1964, the poverty rate was about 19 percent. Census data from 2010 indicates that 15.1 percent are in poverty within a much larger population.
In his classic novel "1984," George Orwell warned about the evils of a totalitarian state dominated by a single ruling party with total power over its inhabitants. Oceania, his fictional superstate, is under complete surveillance by the authorities. The character known as "Big Brother" reminds everyone he is constantly monitoring the citizens of Oceania, mainly by "telescreen."
At the end of 2013, the federal government may not yet have telescreens, which in Orwell's imagination had the ability to eavesdrop on people's conversations and broadcast propaganda, but it does have the nonfiction equivalent -- data collection, drones and other technological invasions of privacy. Our government does have the National Security Agency.
"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace." -- John Lennon
"Black Friday" was a metaphor beyond the merchants' bottom line. Headlines on last Friday's Drudge Report reflect a culture that is being trampled by the greed and me-only attitude of a growing number of us:
My parents voted for Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election. I had not yet developed a political worldview, but as a freshman at American University in Washington, D.C., I stayed up late to watch the election returns slowly trickle in before going to bed at 2 a.m. with the outcome still undecided.
The following year I was hired as a copyboy at NBC News, delivering wire service "copy" to news reporters in the network's Washington bureau. White House correspondent Sander Vanocur invited me to accompany him to observe the swearing-in of Adlai Stevenson as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Corrected from earlier (see below) | Three famous men died on Nov. 22, 1963. The one getting the most attention, understandably, is John F. Kennedy. Less so the other two: Aldous Huxley, author of the futuristic novel "Brave New World," and Clive Staples Lewis.
Of the three, it was Lewis who not only was the most influential of his time, but whose reach extends to these times and likely beyond. His many books continue to sell and the number of people whose lives have been changed by his writing expands each year.
Last August before a closed meeting of Republican leaders in Boston, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said, "We are not a debating society. We are a political operation that needs to win."
Tuesday night, Christie won. Big time. In one of the nation's bluest states, Christie got 60.5 percent of the vote. His Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, claims she lost because "Democratic political bosses" made a deal with Christie "despite him representing almost everything they're against. ... They did it to help themselves politically and financially." In other words, they voted out of self-interest. Imagine that. Self-interest in politics.
"Bye Bye Birdie" is an old musical that survives in high school productions and in some people's memory bank. It debuted on Broadway in 1960 and was made into a film in 1963. One of the songs from the show might serve as an inspiration, if not a theme, for Republicans in the winter of their discontent over President Obama and congressional Democrats: "Put on a Happy Face."
A problem Republicans have had since the "glory days" of Ronald Reagan is that too many have forgotten how to be positive and affirming. Nobody likes to be around a sourpuss.
With frustration building over Washington's refusal to behave in the public interest, perhaps it's worth noting a drastic solution tried by the Irish.
Last Friday, Irish voters cast ballots on a referendum to abolish the country's Upper House, known as the Seanad. Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Ireland didn't need all of its politicians and they should be made to suffer along with everyone else as the country continues to struggle economically.
If Republicans were smart (I know, but stay with me) their focus during the Obamacare debate should have been less on blocking its implementation and more on a page they might have taken from the Democrat's playbook, which is to rally the country to its side by use of sentimentality and the threat of impending doom. The good news for Republicans is that there's still time.
It's a sure bet Democrats are right now writing sob stories of tearful children barred from the Lincoln Memorial because of the government "shutdown." The National Zoo in Washington inexplicably turned off its unmanned Panda Cam, which showed video of the newborn panda cub on the Internet. Boohoo.
President Obama pledged to end partisanship, but instead has exacerbated it. He recently accused House Republicans of being extortionists for opposing a raise in the debt ceiling and wanting to defund Obamacare.
Dictionary.com defines extortion as "the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one's office or authority."
Expecting Syria to live up to an agreement between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the cataloging, inspection, removal and eventual destruction or sequester of chemical weapons is a subtle seduction.
Why would a dictator like Bashar al-Assad relinquish his most potent weapon in the midst of a civil war? President Obama and his sycophants claim it was the threat of military action against Syria that focused Assad's mind. That hardly seems credible after Kerry's promise that any U.S. missile strike would be "unbelievably small."
"One does not sharpen the axes after the right time; after the time they are needed." -- Russian Proverb
The late Ukrainian violinist Mischa Elman is considered one of the greatest of all time, but he has nothing on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has played the Obama administration better than any musician.
Ashton Kutcher, the 35-year-old actor and ex-husband of actress Demi Moore, has never been considered a poster child for the "family values crowd," but at the Teen Choice Awards two weeks ago, he could have easily passed for one.
Following screams from young female fans in the audience, Kutcher silenced them with a motivational message that bordered on inspiration. He told them: "I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. ... I've never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job."
It was an atypical August summer day in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago next week. Temperatures were in the low 80s, about 10 degrees cooler than normal. Skies were partly cloudy. Most government officials were vacationing.
I was a young copyboy at the NBC News Washington bureau. Correspondent Jack Perkins asked me to accompany him to hear a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.
When I studied the U.S. Constitution in school, I learned that for a bill to become law it first had to be introduced in either the House or the Senate. Today, a cynic might say for a bill to become law a member of Congress must first be introduced to a lobbyist.
Much of government's dysfunction, cost and overreach can be traced to the abandonment of the constitutional boundaries the Founders put in place for the purpose of controlling the lust for power. In his new book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, Mark R. Levin asserts the U.S. government isn't performing up to standards established by the Founders because, like a flooding river, politicians have breached their constitutional limits.
"We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression." -- Ronald Reagan, March 23, 1983
President Reagan's speech to the nation 30 ago launched a major arms buildup to confront the expanding military power and political aspirations of the Soviet Union. It followed the disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter, whose nonperformance during the Iran hostage crisis led to the perception in the Muslim world that America was weak and had lost its resolve to confront enemies.
STAVANGER, Norway -- The several hundred conservatives on the National Review's summer cruise, which I was asked to attend as a speaker, are united in what they don't like about the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, but divided on the best strategy for winning the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.
On a panel titled "The State of the GOP and Conservatism," Bob Costa, the magazine's Washington bureau chief, asks if anyone agrees with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who thinks Republicans should be willing to shutdown the government over the issue of defunding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
AMSTERDAM -- On the day I visit the Anne Frank House, which is actually the family's hiding place atop Anne's father's business, the wait to get in is as long as three hours. Such is the attraction of this historic site, 53 years after it was opened to the public.
Anne and her family were among an estimated 107,000 Jews deported to concentration camps from The Netherlands during the German occupation in World War II.
When it comes to Vietnam, I'm all for moving on, putting the past behind us, looking forward, letting bygones be bygones, but doing so requires honesty about the past, lest history be forgotten and the memory and honor tarnished of the 60,000 Americans who died in that war.
On his visit to Washington last week, President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam told President Obama the late revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, was inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. In an ad in the Washington Post, President Sang even claimed Jefferson's vision of liberty was the same as Ho's. Not exactly.
Now for some good news, and it has nothing to do with the birth of the royal baby.
According to a USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center poll, "Americans by more than 2-1 say the best way to make positive changes in society is through volunteer organizations and charities, not by being active in government." Even better news: People under 30 are especially put off by politics and are "significantly less likely than their parents to say participating in politics is an important value in their lives."
President Obama rarely misses an opportunity to insert himself into an issue. Last Friday, he appeared in the White House pressroom to comment on the George Zimmerman verdict. The president said he could have been Trayvon Martin. Not likely, given his private schooling and the way he was fast-tracked to success.
The president said the history of African-Americans partially explains the way many black people view the case. He spoke of blacks hearing car doors lock as they cross the street and of white women who clutch their purses tightly when a black person enters an elevator.