Opinion

  • The Lame Duck Insurrection

    I moved to Washington, DC, when I was 22 years old to go to graduate school at Georgetown University.  I used to visit Capitol Hill regularly to use the Library of Congress.  Every chance I had, I would walk across the street and walk the grounds of the Capitol.  In those days—before Capitol Police officers were murdered in the line of duty in 1998 and before 9/11—you could enter through … Read More

  • The (Coming) Wave of Vaccine Disinformation

    Since the 1980s, 75 million people have been infected with the human immuno-deficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS.  32 million people have died.  In 2009, about 1.4 billion people were infected by H1N1, the swine flu.  It killed 575,000 people, globally.  Ebola, in the 2014 outbreak, killed 11,310 people of the 28,616 it infected.  In every one of those cases, disinformation from Russia stoked anxieties, obscured the truth, and … Read More

  • Imagine

    Yesterday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that this winter could be “the most difficult time in the public health history of the nation.”  According to his estimates, another 200,000 Americans may die in the next two months from COVID-19, which would raise the total death toll to something in excess of 450,000 Americans in less than one year.  To put that … Read More

  • This Way, Tyranny Lies

    One of my favorite topics to teach is the 16th century scientific revolution in Europe.  If I could, I would spend an entire semester dissecting the way Ptolemy’s second-century explanation of the universe prevailed for 13 centuries, only to be challenged by Copernicus and then utterly destroyed by Tycho Brahe and Johanne Keppler, who turned 20 years of nightly observations of the heavens into three laws of planetary motion: Planets … Read More

  • “They Bought Us Time to Do Better”

    One week before D-Day, on May 29, 1944, Britain’s air chief marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory approached General Dwight Eisenhower with a warning.  As commander of the airborne assault on D-Day, Leigh-Mallory’s paratrooper and glider units would be among the first to assault Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, and the British general was worried.  The Germans had been reinforcing parts of the region targeted by U.S. airborne forces.  By his calculations, glider forces would … Read More

  • Back to the Future

    Every four years we have a presidential election that sets the agenda for the country for the following four years.  Theoretically, the election is the culminating moment of a national dialogue.  In the ideal, the vote is an expression of the nation’s opinion, not necessarily on the fitness of candidates, but on the major issues of the day. Growing up, I loved campaigns because of that Capra-esque idealism.  I reveled … Read More

  • What If We Talked About Foreign Policy?

    Presidential campaigns are rarely won or lost on foreign policy.  In the last 50 years, probably only two—Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter and President George W. Bush’s re-election win against my old friend then-Senator John Kerry in 2004—would qualify.  In 1980, American hostages were held captive in the old U.S. embassy in Tehran following the Islamic revolution that swept the old, pro-American regime from power.  In … Read More

  • The Breakdown of Politics

    On the 22nd of May, 1856, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina entered the old Senate chamber shortly after the Senate concluded its business for the day.  After sitting for a moment in an empty seat on the floor of the chamber, Representative Brooks offered to a member of the Senate staff that he hoped the attractive woman sitting just outside the Senate chamber would leave.  Despite such chivalrous concerns, … Read More

  • Power and Values

    We live in a cynical time. The president of the United States boasts that his pandemic response warrants a grade of A+ in the same week that deaths from the pandemic exceed 200,000 Americans. A GOP-controlled committee of the U.S. Senate released a preliminary report on an investigation into the son of Vice President Joe Biden that tracks with rumors spread by Russian agents the same week that the U.S. … Read More

  • Truth and Panic

    In May of 1940, the German Army nearly won the war in Europe.  After invading the low countries, their forces swung left and engaged a joint British and French army.  As German forces swept across Belgium, Belgian resistance collapsed and its king, Leopold, capitulated.  British and French forces were driven onto a sliver of beach in the small port city of Dunkirk.  On those sands, the remnants of the British ... Read More