A Week Until the State of the Union

When Barack Obama feels political pressure, he doesn’t go for conciliatory language. He becomes slashingly partisan, as he did, surprisingly, in his convention speech and as he did in announcing his push for health care. How he speaks on the hot-button issues that seem to have injured him badly — not only health care, but closing Gitmo, the New York trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the bizarre responses to Nidal Hasan and the Christmas Day near-mass-murder — will tell us something about his ability to adapt to real-world circumstances. Once again, I have to say, even if you oppose him, you have to hope that Obama hears this wake-up call. He is the president of the United States. He has done a great many foolish things, and has received immediate word that his foolishness is going to have parlous political consequences. This is really the moment that will tell us whether he can do more politically than get himself elected brilliantly.

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A Week Until the State of the Union

Must-Reads from Magazine

Syria’s Forsaken Rebels

Has Washington given up on Syria?

Last week, I wrote about one of the troublesome byproducts of the Trump-Putin summit in Hamburg: a ceasefire in southwestern Syria that Israel worries will entrench Iranian control of that area bordering the Israeli Golan Heights. The day after my article came out, the Washington Post reported on another troubling decision that President Trump has made vis a vis Syria: Ending a CIA program that had provided arms and training to anti-Assad forces.

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The Democratic Party’s False Centrism

It's a duck.

Democrats are finally digging out of the wreckage the Obama years wrought, and are beginning to acknowledge the woes they visited upon themselves with their box-checking identity liberalism. So, yes, the opposition is moving forward in the Trump area, but toward what? Schizophrenia, apparently.

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Challenging Violent Speech—Unless It’s About Israel

The border of incitement.

The idea that speech can itself constitute an act of violence grows ever more popular among the left’s leading polemicists. They argue that employing a politically incorrect word can be triggering; that the wrong gender pronoun can provoke; that words and sentences and parts of speech are all acts of aggression in disguise. The left seeks to stop this violence, or less euphemistically: to silence this speech.

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Russian Undressing: An Explanation

Podcast: How bad is it?

On the first of this week’s COMMENTARY podcasts, Noah Rothman and Abe Greenwald join me to sort through—and we do it systematically, which is a first for us—what is going on with the Russia investigation and how it divides into three categories. There’s the question of the probe itself, there’s the question of collusion, and there’s the question of obstruction of justice. It’s really good. I mean it. Give a listen.

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Polish Democracy in the Balance

Democracy dies while the president looks the other way.

Past U.S. presidents have used their bully pulpit to campaign for human-rights and democracy. By encouraging the unprecedented wave of democratization that has swept the world since 1945, their words and actions had consequences. That’s not something that Donald Trump does. Far from it; he positively praises dictators. His words have consequences, too, and they are not good.

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