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Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has reported on national and international issues from Washington for more ...

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Doyle McManus

Doyle McManus

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 Bangladesh's sweatshops: A boycott is not the answer

Bangladesh's sweatshops: A boycott is not the answer

April 22, 2014

One year ago this week, the eight-story Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh's capital city of Dhaka, killing 1,129 people. The building's top floors had been added illegally, and their weight caused the lower stories to buckle. Many of the victims were young women who had been sewing low-priced clothes for Western brands, earning a minimum wage of about $9 a week. It was the worst disaster in garment industry history.

  • What Putin wants, and how he plans to get it

    April 20, 2014

    It was tempting to look at last week's diplomatic agreement to pull Ukraine back from the brink of war and see the beginning of a grand compromise between Russia and the West.

  • Is Jeb Bush too old school for the new GOP?

    April 15, 2014

    Is Jeb Bush's moment over?

  • Reading between the lines in Washington

    April 11, 2014

    Reading is such an improbable idea -- a miracle, really. Yet simple squiggles on a page, arranged just so, can convey ideas that change the way we think or introduce to us characters we love for a lifetime. In celebration of reading -- and of this weekend's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books -- we asked four readers (who also happen to be writers) to celebrate books that mattered in their lives.

  • The GOP's 2016 handicap -- immigration

    April 8, 2014

    In case you missed it, here's what former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had to say last week when asked about people who come to America illegally to make better lives:

  • Is Obamacare too big to fail?

    April 6, 2014

    When Obamacare's first open-enrollment period ended last week, the tally was impressive: 7.1 million Americans signed up for insurance on federal and state exchanges by the March 31 deadline, several million more signed up for Medicaid and a whole lot of under-26 Americans got covered by their parents' plans.

  • America's evangelicals return to seeking souls, not votes

    April 2, 2014

    Only a decade ago, Christian social conservatives were a commanding force in American politics. They helped elect one of their own, George W. Bush, to two terms. They were a cornerstone of a GOP coalition that appeared to hold a permanent electoral majority. But today, the movement has lost its momentum — in part because one of its assets has become a liability.

  • Chuck Hagel: The Asia pivot is still on

    March 30, 2014

    Russian troops are massing menacingly on Ukraine's eastern border. The civil war in Syria is still raging, and 33,000 American troops fight on in Afghanistan. So where is Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel headed this week? To Hawaii — for a meeting with defense ministers from Asia, the region the Obama administration still considers its top foreign policy priority.

  • The president, the pope and practical politics

    March 26, 2014

    President Obama is scheduled to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, and the meeting will probably take the usual form of encounters between presidents and pontiffs: a polite conversation about their common agenda on poverty and world peace, plus a gentle remonstrance from the Holy Father on abortion and religious liberty.

  • What would a Republican president do about Ukraine?

    March 23, 2014

    Here's what the United States has done so far in an attempt to deter further Russian incursions into Ukraine: applied two rounds of economic sanctions and asked Congress to approve $1 billion in loan guarantees for Kiev.

  • Putin conducts 'Russia Marches On'

    March 18, 2014

    Last week, before Vladimir Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea to Russia, I asked a leading Putinologist, Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, what the Russian president was likely to do.

  • Are the Democrats doomed?

    March 16, 2014

    This year was always going to be a difficult one for Democrats, as they battle to keep their five-seat majority in the Senate. But in recent months, the political landscape has grown bleaker.

  • Millennials rising

    March 12, 2014

    The young are different from you and me — unless, of course, you happen to be one of them.

  • Obama and the diplomacy pendulum

    March 9, 2014

    When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, one of his selling points was the promise of a more modest foreign policy than that of his predecessor. And when Obama won reelection 16 months ago, he renewed that pledge. Drone strikes against Al Qaeda would continue, and Navy visits to the South China Sea would increase, but the U.S. footprint around the world was being resolutely downsized.

  • The dawn of Cold War II

    March 5, 2014

    Here's a chilly thought: We are seeing the dawn of a second Cold War between Russia and the West. But this one should be easier to manage than the first was.

  • Democrats go a-courting as the Senate hangs in the balance

    March 2, 2014

    Nearly a generation ago, MSNBC's Chris Matthews coined a description of our two political parties that may turn out to be his most enduring contribution to American punditry. Republicans, Matthews wrote, were the "Daddy Party," all about military security and self-reliance; Democrats were the "Mommy Party," all about health, education and nurturing.

  • Chuck Hagel's nuclear exemption

    February 26, 2014

    The headlines on the Pentagon budget unveiled by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week were all about austerity: the smallest U.S. Army since 1940; fewer aircraft, ships and armored vehicles; even some modest belt-tightening on future military pay and benefits.

  • Leading from behind in Syria

    February 23, 2014

    Faced with bad options in Syria, President Obama is reviving a tactic he tried in an earlier war: leading from behind.

  • The tea party grows up

    February 16, 2014

    Ever since a wave of conservative insurgents arrived in Washington after the congressional election of 2010, Congress has careened from one tea party-inspired fiscal crisis to another, from the debt-ceiling showdown of 2011 to last year's 16-day government shutdown.

  • For Obama, procrastination on Keystone XL might be a virtue

    February 12, 2014

    The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline may look like just another example of the partisan divide on Capitol Hill. If only it were that easy.

  • Bill Gates: The world is better than ever

    February 8, 2014

    Bill Gates wants you to feel much better about the future of mankind. Things are looking up, he says, way up.

  • Red vs. blue: The battle lines of 2014

    February 5, 2014

    The conventional wisdom is that this fall's congressional election will be all about Obamacare. Republicans, it's argued, will try to expand their majority in the House and take the Senate with a campaign focused mostly on the failings of President Obama's health insurance law; Democrats will fire back with warnings that the GOP would simply repeal the law and leave consumers on their own.

  • Henry Waxman, the 'tougher than a boiled owl' congressman

    February 2, 2014

    Most members of the House of Representatives have a "wall of fame" in their office — meant-to-impress photographs of the often obscure incumbent with presidents, senators and hometown sports heroes.

  • State of the Union: Obama's era of limits

    January 28, 2014

    The rap against President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday was that his agenda, once ambitious and transformational, has suddenly turned modest.

  • Harry Reid earns an assist on Iran

    January 26, 2014

    The most important person in the U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations right now may be Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader from Searchlight, Nev.

  • The GOP discovers inequality

    January 22, 2014

    "Poverty is not some rare disease from which the rest of us are all immune," a leading American politician said last week. "It is but the worst strain of a widespread disease otherwise known as economic insecurity. Most families worry about making ends meet."

  • A new day at the NSA

    January 19, 2014

    Individually, the concrete steps President Obama announced Friday toward reforming the National Security Agency's surveillance programs were modest. Taken together, though, they signal the end of an era of unfettered escalation in U.S. intelligence-gathering.

  • John Kerry's bicycle diplomacy in the Middle East

    January 15, 2014

    Peace negotiations, a wise U.S. diplomat once said, are like riding a bicycle: No matter how slow you're moving, it's best to keep going — because if you try to stand still, you'll fall.

  • Syria and the perils of proxy war

    January 12, 2014

    The first war I covered as a foreign correspondent was the civil war in Lebanon. When the conflict began in 1975, it was just a series of skirmishes, a nasty but limited little war for control of a small nation.

  • Edward Snowden, in shades of gray

    January 8, 2014

    Is Edward Snowden a whistle-blower or a traitor?

  • McManus: The president's hump year

    January 5, 2014

    The sixth year of a two-term presidency is rarely kind.

  • A Beltway pundit's cloudy crystal ball

    December 29, 2013

    To err is human. To err twice a week, you have to be a columnist.

  • 2014 forecast for D.C.: Still stormy

    December 22, 2013

    "Congress is finishing this year less popular than a cockroach," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the other day. The reason, he charged, was simple: "mindless, knee-jerk obstruction from Republicans."

  • What Edward Snowden started

    December 18, 2013

    Edward Snowden should be proud.

  • Moonwalking in Syria

    December 15, 2013

    Here's how feeble U.S. influence on the outcome of Syria's dreadful civil war has become: For the Obama administration's diplomacy to succeed, it now needs help from an armed group with the unpromising name of the Islamic Front.

  • Piling on the Murray-Ryan budget deal

    December 11, 2013

    Here's what counts as success in Washington these days: a budget deal that almost everyone hates and that doesn't solve any of the country's major problems.

  • John Kerry's high-wire diplomacy

    December 8, 2013

    Has John F. Kerry turned into the unexpected star of President Obama's second term?

  • For Obama, it's all about Obamacare

    December 4, 2013

    President Obama's speech Tuesday announced the relaunch of his healthcare program's website. But he was also aiming to relaunch his entire second term, which has careened from high ambition to near-catastrophe in less than 11 months.

  • Dance of the GOP governors

    December 1, 2013

    Don't look now, but auditions for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are already underway in Washington. And the flavor of the moment is — governors.

  • Iran sanctions: Dancing with Tehran

    November 27, 2013

    If economic sanctions were key to forcing Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program, wouldn't more sanctions have an even greater effect?

  • Will the NSA be reformed?

    November 24, 2013

    Remember Edward Snowden? For a while, the National Security Agency's renegade contractor seemed like the most influential man in American intelligence, even though he's been hiding out in Moscow. Snowden's disclosures touched off a wave of enthusiasm in Congress for reforming the NSA's surveillance practices — and anger overseas when he revealed that American spies were listening to foreign leaders' cellphone calls.

  • Obama's reversal of fortune

    November 20, 2013

    When it comes to his healthcare law, President Obama faces a political version of what insurance folks call "adverse selection": All the bad news is sticking to him and most of the good news is sticking to someone else.

  • JFK, a presidency on a pedestal

    November 17, 2013

    Fifty years after the death of John F. Kennedy, there's no mystery about why his brief presidency remains an object of fascination: It was glamorous, photogenic, and cut short by an assassination that still seems an insoluble puzzle. Compared to the full-color images of Kennedy and his wife on our television screens this month, other figures of his era seem gray.

  • Dreaming of the White House

    November 13, 2013

    Is it too early to think about who's running for president in 2016, three years from now?

  • No longer the Greatest Generation's VA

    November 10, 2013

    Just in time for Veterans Day, the embattled secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, announced last week that his department had reduced its backlog of overdue disability claims from more than 600,000 in March to about 400,000.

  • The answer on Iran? Yes.

    November 6, 2013

    After years of fruitless negotiations, the United States may soon face an unfamiliar problem in its long confrontation with Iran: Are we willing to take yes for an answer?

  • A plague on both your parties

    November 3, 2013

    Only two weeks ago, President Obama looked like a man on the rise. He and his party had successfully stared down Republicans in a 16-day government shutdown. Voters were angrier at the GOP than any time since, well, the last government shutdown. A confident-looking Obama declared it was time to get the country back on track with quick action on a budget agreement, immigration reform and a bipartisan farm bill.

  • Turning away from the Mideast

    October 30, 2013

    Two years ago, when the Arab Spring was in bloom, President Obama declared that promoting democracy in the Middle East would be "a top priority" for the United States. "We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith," Obama said.

  • Obamacare's next hurdle

    October 27, 2013

    One of these weeks, now that the Obama administration has recruited a SWAT team of computer whizzes, Healthcare.gov will recover from its shambolic debut and turn into, well, just another website. After all, it's only a website, and websites can be fixed.

  • Poof goes the middle class

    October 23, 2013

    Imagine a future in which real wages for most workers decline year after year; a future in which middle-class jobs that disappeared in the Great Recession won't be coming back; a future in which young Americans either squeeze into an increasingly wealthy elite or tumble to the bottom, with fewer and fewer in what we once called the middle class.

  • Government shutdown: Plenty of lessons to go around

    October 20, 2013

    Obama and the Democrats won; Republicans and the tea party lost. And both sides are gearing up for next time.

  • McConnell delivers; Boehner can't

    October 16, 2013

    God bless Mitch McConnell.

  • For the GOP, rightward ho!

    October 13, 2013

    The Republican Party is at war with itself. It's divided over how best to shrink the federal budget and how to undo President Obama's healthcare law. It hasn't been notably successful at either, which helps explain why the GOP's standing in the eyes of most voters has plummeted to depths not seen in three decades of modern polling.

  • The uncompromiser in chief

    October 9, 2013

    If you wanted to hear words of sweet conciliation, the White House was the wrong place to go this week.

  • The unsettled healthcare law

    October 6, 2013

    Ever since Obamacare's stormy passage in early 2010, Democrats have been waiting anxiously for the program to go into effect and hoping that a dose of reality would calm the partisan battles over the health insurance plan. Once everything was up and running, they hoped, skeptical Americans would see that Obamacare was a good idea all along — and reward the party that brought it to them.

  • Government shutdown: A way out for the GOP

    October 2, 2013

    Last week, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his Republicans declared that they had two clear goals in this fall's battle over federal spending: no government shutdown, and no implementation of Obamacare.

  • Charmed by Rouhani, but only to a point

    September 29, 2013

    NEW YORK — How long does it take for a charm offensive to wear thin?

  • Another Clinton presidential campaign?

    September 25, 2013

    So, will Hillary Rodham Clinton run for president?

  • In Washington, countdown to a shutdown

    September 22, 2013

    "The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want Obamacare. The House has listened to the American people."

  • On foreign policy, a consistently inconsistent president

    September 18, 2013

    In the wake of his dizzying reverses over chemical weapons in Syria, President Obama has been blasted as inconsistent, impulsive and amateurish in his conduct of foreign policy. But when you look at his actions rather than his words, there's more consistency than meets the eye. Consider the evidence.

  • In America, not isolationism but skepticism

    September 15, 2013

    President Obama and his aides were surprised this month by the strength of public opposition to their call for military action against Syria. They shouldn't have been.

  • Obama, the reluctant warrior on Syria

    September 11, 2013

    On Tuesday, President Obama made the case for a limited military strike in Syria if diplomacy fails.

  • To strike, or not to strike, Syria?

    September 8, 2013

    After two weeks of furious debate about whether the United States should attack Syria, the arguments on both sides are now clear.

  • The Syria vote's political stakes

    September 4, 2013

    Every member of the Senate with a glimmer of ambition to run for president — and that's most of them — knows that a vote for war can make or break a political career. The example of Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose vote to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq crippled her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, is vivid in every mind on Capitol Hill.

  • How a demon iPad stole my summer vacation

    September 1, 2013

    I plan to remember this year's vacation season with just two words: Never again.

  • Obama's limited Syria goals

    August 28, 2013

    President Obama appears increasingly ready to launch a military strike in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians.

  • In the Arab world, U.S. is low on leverage

    August 10, 2013

    The "Arab Spring" may not have succeeded in bringing democracy to the Middle East. But it has provided powerful evidence of a different phenomenon: the illusion of U.S. influence over governments we once considered our clients.

  • Have the terrorists won?

    August 7, 2013

    Last year, in the heat of his campaign, President Obama boasted that he had put Al Qaeda "on the path to defeat." This year, with 19 U.S. consulates and embassies closed and the State Department issuing vague warnings against travel anywhere in the world, Al Qaeda suddenly seems resurgent — and as frightening as ever.

  • Is the GOP self-destructing?

    August 4, 2013

    We've all grown used to a Congress locked in bitter warfare between two parties, producing gridlock on federal spending and other pressing issues. But the Congress that left Washington last week hit a new high in another category: gridlock among Republicans.

  • Ted Cruz, wacko like a fox

    July 31, 2013

    Ted Cruz is on a roll.

  • McManus: Obama's defensive offensive

    July 28, 2013

    President Obama sounds like a man back on the offensive.

  • McManus: A FISA court devil's advocate

    July 24, 2013

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a tribunal that oversees government eavesdropping, is a strange judicial creation. It lacks many of the usual features of a court. Its proceedings are secret. Its rulings are secret.

  • McManus: Europe's continental drift

    July 20, 2013

    RIMINI, Italy — You think we have it bad, caught between a stagnant economy and gridlocked politics? Then take a trip to Europe, where the economy is going not sideways but backward — and the politics are too.

  • McManus: The GOP's immigration blues

    June 26, 2013

    For a moment there, immigration reform almost looked easy.

  • McManus: Chance for a new approach on Iran

    June 22, 2013

    We don't know yet whether Hassan Rowhani, the surprise winner of Iran's presidential election, will turn out to be a reformer or just another frontman for the clerical establishment. He won't even be inaugurated until Aug. 4.

  • McManus: Congress kicks the can

    June 19, 2013

    It almost seems like distant history now, but it was really just a few short months ago that President Obama and Senate Republicans, spurred by fear of fiscal chaos, did the unthinkable: They went out to dinner and talked civilly about the possibility of a "grand bargain," a compromise that would shrink the deficit through revenue increases and long-term spending cuts.

  • McManus: Obama, Syria and the Aspin Doctrine

    June 15, 2013

    As President Obama contemplates his many bad options in Syria, he may want to consider the Aspin Doctrine, an argument for intervention abroad made by President Clinton's first secretary of Defense, Les Aspin.

  • McManus: Head-in-the-sand Congress

    June 12, 2013

    Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) , a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is hopping mad. Sensenbrenner considers himself the father of the Patriot Act, the 2001 law that gave the federal government new powers to investigate potential terrorists. But he thinks the National Security Agency's program to collect records on every telephone call in the country goes well beyond what he intended.

  • McManus: Obama's foreign policy reset

    June 9, 2013

    The appointment of Susan Rice as national security advisor sends an important signal about the kind of foreign policy President Obama wants to pursue for the remainder of his second term: activist, assertive, occasionally even pugnacious. With three years to shape a legacy in world affairs, Obama wants to play offense, not defense.

  • McManus: Where's the enemies list?

    June 5, 2013

    Who exactly is the enemy in the continuing U.S. war against terrorism?

  • McManus: 'Tea party' tempest brewing

    June 2, 2013

    The "tea party" is back and is brewing trouble for the Republican establishment.

  • McManus: The long haul in Syria

    May 29, 2013

    The civil war in Syria is heading in the wrong direction. In the last year, rebels had won control of big slices of territory, including much of the country's largest city, Aleppo. But those gains prompted a surge of military aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime: urban guerrillas from Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraq's Shiite Muslim militias, combat advisors from Iran's Revolutionary Guard and antiaircraft missiles from Russia (to prevent "hotheads" from trying to impose anything like a no-fly zone, an official in Moscow said Monday). As a result, the Assad regime has seized at least a temporary advantage.

  • McManus: Rebooting the war on terror

    May 26, 2013

    President Obama's speech last week on the future course of America's 11-year-old war against Al Qaeda was long overdue.

  • McManus: Obama's IRS choice

    May 22, 2013

    Message to the president: Resistance is futile.

  • McManus: The second-term scandal plague

    May 18, 2013

    What is it about presidents' second terms that makes them seem so scandal-ridden? Simple: The iron law of longevity. All governments make mistakes, and all governments try to hide those mistakes. But the longer an administration is in office, the more errors it makes, and the harder they are to conceal.

  • McManus: Mother knows best

    May 12, 2013

    There are two things you can do for your mother on Mother's Day. One is to say "thank you." (Over lunch, with flowers.) The other is to ask her for advice — even if she's not convinced you really want it.

  • McManus: Obama's plan to avoid lame-duckery

    May 8, 2013

    For the last two months, President Obama has been mired in Washington's inside game, caught up in backroom congressional politics as he tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill on gun control and nudge Republican senators toward compromise on the budget.

  • McManus: Obama's Gitmo woes

    May 4, 2013

    President Obama sounded genuinely outraged last week when he talked about the Kafkaesque situation at the Guantanamo prison camp, where the United States has been holding 166 men without trial for terms that are, at this point, officially endless.

  • McManus: Obama plays for time to avoid 'red line'

    May 1, 2013

    Barack Obama really, really does not want to get tangled up in Syria.

  • McManus: Obama's war on red tape

    April 28, 2013

    Here are three things the Obama administration has done that you probably didn't know about:

  • McManus: Boston -- clash of the talking points

    April 24, 2013

    A terrorist attack is like a national Rorschach test. Everybody sees in it what they want — usually something that proves a point they've been making all along.

  • McManus: A tax everyone can love

    April 21, 2013

    The chairmen of Congress' primary tax committees, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), have launched a bipartisan effort to reform our messy, inefficient federal tax law. They've agreed to look for ways to lower tax rates on both individuals and corporations and at the same time "close loopholes."

  • McManus: We're safer than we think

    April 16, 2013

    After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the most frequently heard forecast was: “This changes everything.”

  • McManus: Inching closer to entanglement in Syria

    April 14, 2013

    The White House finally made it official last week: Yes, the civil war in Syria is a slippery slope, and yes, we're on it.

  • McManus: Can Obama sell 'chained CPI'?

    April 10, 2013

    President Obama won't release his proposed budget for 2014 until Wednesday, but liberals and AARP have been howling all week about something they expect to be in it.

  • McManus: Let's talk GOP and fantasy politics

    April 7, 2013

    Almost four years ago, long before the 2012 presidential campaign heated up, CNN took a poll to learn who Republicans might choose as their party's next nominee. There were two clear front-runners: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, limped in third.

  • McManus: Gun control, DOA

    April 3, 2013

    President Obama pleaded with Congress last week to remember the victims of December's schoolhouse shootings in Connecticut and tighten the nation's gun laws. "Shame on us if we've forgotten," he said. "Don't get squishy."

  • McManus: SCOTUS-induced chaos on gay marriage?

    March 31, 2013

    If the Supreme Court decides the two gay marriage cases it heard last week the way most court watchers believe it will, expect legal and political chaos.

  • McManus: Inching toward Syria

    March 27, 2013

    Military intervention in the Muslim world seems to bring the United States nothing but grief. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya: None looks much like a success story now.

  • McManus: 'Sequester' causing pain -- to Congress

    March 24, 2013

    Think the automatic budget cuts Congress ordered at the beginning of March — the so-called sequester — haven't caused any pain yet?

  • McManus: Republican 'autopsy' reveals a divide in the party

    March 20, 2013

    It's never too early to start thinking about the next presidential race — especially if you're a political party that has managed to lose the popular vote in five of the last six elections, as the Republican Party has.

  • Iraq war: Lessons learned?

    March 17, 2013

    Ten years have passed since the United States invaded Iraq, a decision that almost everyone now ranks as one of the worst foreign policy blunders of our time. Why "almost"? Former President George W. Bush and his top aides still maintain that the invasion was a good idea, even though the premise on which the war was based — that Saddam Hussein had acquired weapons of mass destruction — proved false, and even though the ensuing war claimed the lives of more than 4,500 Americans and an estimated 127,000 Iraqis.

  • McManus: Sadder but wiser pols

    March 13, 2013

    President Obama took a posse of Republican senators to dinner last week, and this week he's giving Congress the unusual courtesy of no fewer than four presidential visits to Capitol Hill.

  • McManus: Following Rove's muddy path

    March 10, 2013

    President Obama owes Karl Rove a thank-you note.

  • McManus: Fiscal crisis? What crisis?

    March 6, 2013

    Here's what is most maddening about the "Perils of Pauline" fiscal crises that President Obama and Congress have led us into during the last year: Both sides have known from the beginning what the final deals would look like, but neither side has been willing to budge before it had to.

  • McManus: Do-nothing Congress does something

    March 3, 2013

    OK, so Congress hasn't managed to pass a budget, fix the tax code or avert the automatic spending cuts of the dreaded "sequester."

  • McManus: Gridlock, Tehran-style

    February 27, 2013

    With the United States locked in confrontation with Iran, was it good or bad for diplomacy that "Argo," a movie about U.S. spies getting the best of the Iranians, won this year's Academy Award for best picture?

  • McManus: D.C. doubles down on the sequester

    February 24, 2013

    The sequester, those $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to hit the federal government on March 1, was designed to be stupid.

  • McManus: A team of rivals on Syria

    February 20, 2013

    Last August, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus proposed that the United States change its policy and send weapons and other aid to the rebels fighting the Syrian government. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed on too, an unusual step for the normally cautious Pentagon.

  • McManus: President Obama 3.0

    February 17, 2013

    We got a good long look at the second-term edition of Barack Obama last week, and he's sounding more like Bill Clinton every day.

  • McManus: Obama's less-is-more agenda

    February 13, 2013

    President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, the first of his second term, won't be long remembered. It didn't offer much in the way of new ideas. It was short on memorable lines — except, perhaps, his demand for congressional action on gun control because Gabby Giffords and the families of Newtown "deserve a vote."

  • McManus: The other drone question

    February 10, 2013

    It has been 11 years since the United States began using missile-firing drones to attack Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But only now are we beginning a full public debate on this new form of warfare, and it took the nomination of the Obama administration's drone czar, John Brennan, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to force it.

  • McManus: Tax reform that hits home

    February 6, 2013

    Would you support a tax reform measure that could help reduce the federal deficit, remove a needless distortion in the economy and make the system fairer?

  • McManus: What's the Afghanistan mission?

    February 3, 2013

    Amid partisan questioning from both sides in former Sen. Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing last week, a major opportunity was lost.

  • McManus: Immigration reform's new fans

    January 30, 2013

    Can Republicans find a way out of the political dead end they marched into during the 2012 campaign? Can President Obama make his second term more productive than the final gridlocked years of his first? Can Democrats and Republicans in Congress relearn the forgotten art of compromise after years of angry polarization?

  • McManus: The GOP's tactical retreat

    January 27, 2013

    A well-organized retreat is said to be one of the most difficult military maneuvers: You're under enemy fire, your troops are likely to be demoralized, and you've got to avoid a rout.

  • McManus: Obama's call to arms

    January 22, 2013

    On the eve of Inauguration Day, White House political strategist David Plouffe promised that President Obama's inaugural address would include a call for bipartisan cooperation.

  • McManus: Obama, Version 2.0

    January 19, 2013

    Four years ago, on a bright, cold Jan. 20, Barack Obama took his first oath of office as president and proclaimed a new post-partisan era. "The stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply," the Obama of 2009 said.

  • McManus: For Democrats, unity and its pitfalls

    January 16, 2013

    It's hard to recognize the Democratic Party these days. In recent decades, it's been a divided, brawling tribe. But this year, Democrats are one big, happy family.

  • McManus: Confronting Iran -- again

    January 13, 2013

    Here's a prediction I don't think I'll have to apologize for at the end of the year: Some time in the coming months, probably this spring, there will be another crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

  • McManus: The GOP looks inward

    January 9, 2013

    No political party enjoys losing an election, but a healthy party reacts to defeat — after a suitable period of grieving — by trying to figure out what went wrong.

  • McManus: The worst job in Congress

    January 6, 2013

    Spare a little sympathy, if you can, for John A. Boehner of Ohio, speaker of the House of Representatives.

  • McManus: The perils of political punditry

    January 1, 2013

    Back in 2011, at the dawn of a long presidential campaign, I established a fine baseline for my credentials as a political prognosticator: I told readers that Mitt Romney's strongest challengers for the Republican nomination would be Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

  • McManus: After Benghazi, reassessing risk

    December 23, 2012

    Soon — perhaps very soon — the Syrian government of Bashar Assad will fall. On that day, and for months after, Damascus will probably be a disorderly and dangerous place, a risky place for American diplomats to be.

  • McManus: Newtown, politics and gun control

    December 19, 2012

    If you're thinking that last week's tragedy in Newtown, Conn., makes it likely that Congress will soon pass stricter federal gun laws, remember this: People thought the same thing in 2011, after a gunman shot into a Tucson crowd, killing six and injuring others, including Gabrielle Giffords, one of the House of Representatives' own members.

  • McManus: Susan Rice, done in by the 'fiscal cliff'

    December 16, 2012

    It's no secret that Senate Republicans, led by John McCain, took aim at Susan Rice. The only question is, why?

  • McManus: Will it be Clinton? Cuomo? Warren?

    December 12, 2012

    Shortly after the 1988 presidential election, pollsters asked Democrats whom they favored to be their party's nominee in 1992. The strongest candidates were Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York. The governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, didn't even register.

  • McManus: A call to arms for Syria's rebels

    December 9, 2012

    A new word defines the debate over Syria in Washington: endgame. Policymakers expect the regime in Damascus to fall soon, and their focus has shifted to what happens then.

  • McManus: Your guide to the 'fiscal cliff'

    December 5, 2012

    Are we about to go over a fiscal cliff? It's looking more likely, but it may not be as alarming as it sounds.

  • McManus: Doubts about drones

    December 2, 2012

    When President Obama came to office in 2009, it didn't take his new administration long to settle on a favorite anti-terrorist tactic: drone strikes. In his first three years in office, the number of drone strikes against targets in Pakistan and Yemen increased dramatically, from 35 in 2008 to 121 in 2010, before dropping back to 79 so far this year, according to the Long War Journal, a website that has attempted to keep track of reported strikes.

  • McManus: What would Lincoln do?

    November 28, 2012

    In the rest of the country, it may be just another movie, but in Washington, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has become a political Rorschach test.

  • McManus: Petraeus, the comeback general

    November 25, 2012

    Gen. David H. Petraeus, long the most famous overachiever in the U.S. Army, is already on his way to a new career distinction: breaking the land speed record for rehabilitation from a scandal.

  • McManus: Grover Norquist the has-been

    November 21, 2012

    Grover Norquist is losing his grip.

  • McManus: The death of the moderate Republican

    November 18, 2012

    Republicans just lost eight seats in the House. But if you'd wandered into the House of Representatives last week without reading the election returns, you might have concluded that the GOP won big on Nov. 6.

  • McManus: Reshuffling Obama's Cabinet

    November 14, 2012

    "Second terms are hard work," a veteran of the Bill Clinton White House told me Tuesday. "It's a good idea to get some fresh blood in there."

  • McManus: Wielding wedge issues

    November 11, 2012

    Once upon a time in American politics, there were things called "wedge issues," and they generally terrified Democrats. They were mostly social and cultural issues: abortion, feminism, gay rights, illegal immigration and race. Conservatives wielded them to divide working-class Democrats. Wedge issues helped elect Ronald Reagan to the presidency and dozens of other Republicans to Congress.

  • McManus: Obama's second act

    November 7, 2012

    Second terms have rarely been kind to American presidents.

  • McManus: The likely winner -- gridlock

    November 4, 2012

    After a year of campaign sound and fury, we're about to hold an election that will probably fail to usher in the one thing voters of all stripes would like to see: an end to the partisan gridlock in Congress.

  • McManus: Ohio's deluge of spin

    October 31, 2012

    Be glad you don't live in Ohio. It's a fine old state with pretty towns, friendly people and a fairly healthy economy. But over the last six months, its citizens have endured a volume of political advertising unequaled in the history of Western civilization.

  • McManus: The Ohio presidential equation

    October 28, 2012

    If there's a ground zero in this presidential campaign, it might just be the parking lot of a downscale shopping center in North Columbus, Ohio, halfway between Papa John's Pizza and Payless Shoes.

  • McManus: A kinder, gentler Romney

    October 23, 2012

    It's a safe bet that President Obama misses the old Mitt Romney — the one who described himself as "severely conservative."

  • McManus: Applying the 'ground game'

    October 21, 2012

    Outside the old red-brick City Hall in Manassas, Va., Dorothy Cummings was beaming. She had finally persuaded her son Charles to register to vote — and now she was marching him into the registrar's office to make sure he got it done.

  • McManus: Who wins a tied debate?

    October 17, 2012

    When two presidential candidates battle roughly to a tie in a debate, is there a winner?

  • McManus: What the undecided voters want

    October 14, 2012

    What do undecided voters want from presidential candidates, anyway?

  • McManus: Romney's big bounce

    October 10, 2012

    Last week's debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney was an even bigger win for Romney than it appeared at the time. That's what the polls are telling us.

  • McManus: Moderate Mitt? Don't count on it

    October 7, 2012

    Who is the real Romney?

  • McManus: Real presidential debate is possible

    October 3, 2012

    There are two ways that Wednesday's debate between President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, could change the course of the presidential campaign.

  • McManus: The prophets of budget balancing

    September 30, 2012

    Here's one thing the two presidential candidates agree on: the federal government's current fiscal course will lead to disaster.

  • McManus: A Rove 'money bomb'?

    September 26, 2012

    Here's a short list of Democrats who secretly hope Mitt Romney gets his presidential campaign turned around fast and gives President Obama a run for his money: Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic Senate candidate in North Dakota; Jon Tester, the Democratic senator from Montana; and Rep. Shelley Berkley, the Democratic Senate candidate in Nevada.

  • What the presidential polls show

    September 22, 2012

    Only six weeks to go in the presidential campaign, and the public opinion surveys have developed a case of the jitters. Last week, one respected poll reported that President Obama had opened an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney, but another reported that the race was dead even. Other surveys were scattered in between. What's a poor voter supposed to believe?

  • McManus: Are businessmen better presidents?

    September 19, 2012

    It's one of Mitt Romney's favorite lines: America needs a businessman in the White House. It's "a basic qualification" for the job, he said in his speech at the Republican convention last month, "one that's essential to [the] task."

  • McManus: Romney vs. Obama on foreign policy

    September 16, 2012

    In a presidential campaign dominated by voters' unhappiness with the economy, it took a tragedy — the killing of a U.S. ambassador by Libyan extremists — to prompt a real debate on foreign policy.

  • McManus: Who's still undecided?

    September 12, 2012

    Do you know how you'll vote in November's presidential election?

  • McManus: Conventions without compromise

    September 8, 2012

    Attending two political conventions back to back is like visiting two parallel universes: one conservative, one liberal; one overwhelmingly white, the other emphatically multiculti; and each one strangely confident that its candidate is on a steady course to victory.

  • McManus: Clinton's common touch

    September 5, 2012

    There's something delicious about Bill Clinton being asked to serve as the chief character witness for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention. Clinton, let's recall, was a very messy president. His meetings didn't start on time; his speeches didn't end on time. His biggest legislative project, healthcare reform, never passed (unlike Obama's). He made compromises with Republicans; he made Democratic liberals furious. He even got impeached (and ultimately acquitted) over sexual peccadilloes, though nobody seems to remember the details now.

  • Between conventions, both sides still looking for a breakout moment

    September 2, 2012

    It's halftime in America, as Clint Eastwood once said.

  • For Mitt Romney, the election hinges on the middle class

    August 28, 2012

    TAMPA, Fla. — The conventional wisdom is that this week's Republican National Convention needs to make Mitt Romney more "likable" — to replace his image as a frosty billionaire with the warmer (and, friends say, more accurate) picture of a family man, devout Mormon and private do-gooder.

  • It's Medicare vs. the economy

    August 26, 2012

    ARCADE, N.Y. — Kathy Hochul is a young, first-term Democratic congresswoman fighting for her political life in a solidly Republican district outside Buffalo, N.Y. Unlike most of that liberal state, this is Romney country; a poll last week showed the GOP candidate ahead of President Obama in her district by a whopping 12 points.

  • Gridlock likely in Washington no matter who wins presidential race

    August 23, 2012

    There are plenty of things not to like about this year's presidential campaign, including how nasty and negative a mud fight it's become, with both sides engaging in shameless distortion.

  • McManus: In politics, accentuate the negative

    July 29, 2012

    When the Olympic Games began almost 30 centuries ago in ancient Greece, rulers of city-states proclaimed an "Olympic truce," a ban on warfare to allow athletes, poets and spectators to attend without getting speared.

  • McManus: The NRA has won

    July 25, 2012

    Politicians haven't always been allergic to gun control, not even Republicans.

  • McManus: The candidates play gotcha

    July 22, 2012

    There's no argument about one thing this election year: The biggest issue on Americans' minds is the economy and which presidential candidate could better help it grow. So why does what should be a serious policy debate sound so much like a schoolyard spat?

  • McManus: All quiet on the war front

    July 18, 2012

    Here's an important fact you haven't heard much about in the presidential campaign: The armed forces of the United States are at war in at least four countries, and that number could increase any day.

  • McManus: Attack-dog days of summer

    July 15, 2012

    The dog days of July were once a slow time in our presidential campaigns, a time when candidates could take vacations and voters could take a break. The party conventions were still a month or more away; aside from fundraising and backroom strategizing, there wasn't much to see.

  • McManus: Campaign ads -- an American art form

    July 11, 2012

    Today's topic: the billions (yes, with a "b") that will be spent on advertising in this year's presidential and congressional campaigns, and what kind of messages that money is sending.

  • McManus: Attack ad politics

    July 8, 2012

    In this pivotal election year, fellow citizens, I give you a chilling vision of two Americas.

  • McManus: Obama's victory is now his challenge

    July 1, 2012

    "In my first term, we passed healthcare reform," President Obama joked this spring. "In my second term, I guess I'll pass it again."

  • McManus: The Obama edge

    June 28, 2012

    On paper, June looked like a bad month for President Obama. It began with a gaffe, his lighthearted comment that "the private sector is doing fine." Then the Federal Reserve revised its growth forecast downward, making it clear that 8% unemployment is likely to linger past election day. Consumer confidence has sagged to a five-month low, and in one poll released this week, 61% of Americans said they think the country's on the wrong track.

  • McManus: Romney's arithmetic problem

    June 24, 2012

    Here's an issue that hasn't been debated much in the presidential campaign but ought to be: How much should we spend on defense?

  • McManus: Romney breaks the stained-glass ceiling

    June 21, 2012

    If Mitt Romney wins the presidential election this fall, he'll have Harry Reid partly to thank.

  • McManus: An election referendum or a choice?

    June 17, 2012

    Is November's presidential election a referendum on President Obama's record or a choice between two different approaches to government? How voters answer that question could well determine the outcome.

  • McManus: All pain, no gain in southern Europe

    June 14, 2012

    Milan, Italy — From the American side of the Atlantic, the debate over Europe's economic future often sounds like a bloodless, mind-numbing discussion of currency zones, bank recapitalization and interest rates. But in countries with fragile economies like Spain and Italy, it takes on real-life urgency.

  • McManus: A campaign bombshell

    May 20, 2012

    The Supreme Court is about to toss a judicial bomb into the middle of the presidential campaign, and nobody knows what impact it will have.

  • McManus: Americans Elect meets reality

    May 17, 2012

    What happens if you start a political party and nobody comes? Six months ago, a newfangled third party burst onto the scene, full of hope and promise. It was called Americans Elect, and it sought to give voters a choice many said they were looking for: "centrist" candidates who could break the partisan gridlock paralyzing Washington.

  • McManus: Lies, damned lies and political advertising

    May 13, 2012

    The television commercial is designed to spark outrage. "Billions of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries," it intones. "The Obama administration admitted the truth — that $2.3 billion of tax credits went overseas, while millions of Americans can't find a job…. American taxpayers are paying to send their own jobs to foreign countries."

  • McManus: Obama evolves on gay marriage

    May 10, 2012

    President Obama's announcement Wednesday that he was done "evolving" and now supports same-sex marriage was, in retrospect, inevitable. Vice President Joe Biden made it so Sunday, when he remarked almost casually that he had grown "comfortable" with gay marriage.

  • McManus: Coming clean on drones

    May 6, 2012

    In recent weeks, a parade of top officials has given sober, underpublicized speeches explaining why President Obama not only considers "targeted killing" drone strikes against terrorists legal but has massively expanded their use, even approving a strike against a U.S. citizen, the New Mexico-born Al Qaeda preacher Anwar Awlaki, in Yemen last year.

  • McManus: Bin Laden and ballots

    May 3, 2012

    We're far enough away from it now that we can probably all agree: It was a mistake for George W. Bushto land on that aircraft carrier in a flight suit to proclaim "Mission Accomplished." And not just because the war in Iraq was far from over at that point.

  • McManus: Mitt Romney stays put

    April 29, 2012

    If you've been holding your breath to see whether Mitt Romney would pivot to the center now that it's a two-man race between him and President Obama, you can exhale; he won't.

  • McManus: And Romney's veep choice is ...

    April 26, 2012

    The "Veepstakes" are on — but the smart money says they're already over.

  • McManus: A smaller, smarter military

    April 22, 2012

    President Obama has called a halt to the decade-long rise in defense spending that began after Sept. 11, and has proposed shrinking the Army and Marine Corps by about 14%.

  • McManus: The Iran squeeze

    April 19, 2012

    The Obama administration faces two dangers in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, which began in a burst of optimism last weekend after the two sides managed to get through a day and a half of talks without anyone walking out.

  • McManus: The bottom line on taxes

    April 15, 2012

    On April 15, everyone's in favor of tax reform.

  • McManus: Romney, the worst candidate?

    April 12, 2012

    In the spring of 1980, the race for the Republican presidential nomination got nasty. The front-runner, Ronald Reagan, said his main challenger,George H.W. Bush, wasn't a real conservative. Bush went on the attack, accusing Reagan of peddling "voodoo economics" and "a list of phony promises."

  • McManus: A ticking clock on Syria

    April 8, 2012

    The interventionist liberals of the Obama administration were a doleful bunch last week. It was the 20th anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo, when a Bosnian Serb army battered a city full of civilians with artillery while the United States issued ineffective cries of alarm. The comparison with this year's massacres in Syria was painfully apt.

  • McManus: Time for a presidential campaign experiment

    April 5, 2012

    We got our first real glimpse this week of how President Obama and his now-almost-certain Republican rival, Mitt Romney, intend to wage their campaigns in the lead-up to the general election.

  • McManus: The nuclear countdown in Iran

    April 1, 2012

    Not long ago, an astute reader noted that it has been nearly two years since I wrote in a column that "most experts now estimate that Iran needs about 18 months to complete a nuclear device and a missile to carry it."

  • McManus: Obama's 'tax' lapse

    March 29, 2012

    In 2009, President Obama was asked whether the individual mandate in his healthcare plan was really just a tax in disguise. "I absolutely reject that notion," he responded.

  • McManus: Fuming about gas

    March 25, 2012

    When the price of gasoline rises, the supply of hot air expands.

  • McManus: Don't close the GOP show

    March 22, 2012

    We in the mainstream media harbor a dirty little secret: Most of us are rooting for Rick Santorum. It's nothing personal, although Santorum is a reasonably appealing guy. And it's not ideological; most of us aren't yearning for Bible-based social conservatism to become the law of the land. It's worse than that. We're just hoping to see the gaudy spectacle of this primary campaign continue as long as possible.

  • McManus: Will Romney be the GOP's Dukakis?

    March 18, 2012

    There's an old saying in Republican politics: Massachusetts produces only two exports — lobsters and liberals — and neither one travels well.

  • McManus: A Plan C for Afghanistan

    March 15, 2012

    President Obama has long been criticized by Republicans for his purportedly inadequate zeal in pursuing the war in Afghanistan. He was criticized sharply from the right for his plan to draw down troops over three years; too fast, they said.

  • McManus: No quit in these presidential candidates

    March 8, 2012

    Poor Mitt Romney. He won six of 10 states on Super Tuesday, including hotly contested Ohio. He lengthened his lead in the count of delegates who will actually choose the Republican presidential nominee. But he's still a long way from claiming victory.

  • McManus: Israel's brinkmanship, America's peril

    March 4, 2012

    Last week, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, confirmed a no-longer-surprising fact: the Pentagon has sent the White House a menu of options for going to war with Iran.

  • McManus: Romney won't be a pushover in November

    March 1, 2012

    Mitt Romney started as the odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination, and he's never really lost that spot. Still, he's had a rough six weeks.

  • McManus: Campaign 2012's lessons so far

    February 23, 2012

    It sometimes feels as if the struggle for the Republican presidential nomination has been going on forever, but if you measure the campaign by the number of delegates chosen so far, we're only about 10% done.

  • McManus: Mixing Medicare and mudslinging

    February 19, 2012

    Don't look now, but the 2012 election is turning into a national referendum on what to do about Medicare.

  • McManus: Santorum's surge

    February 16, 2012

    When this year's presidential campaign began, Rick Santorum looked like a fringe candidate, consigned permanently to the outside edge of an overcrowded debate stage. But as earlier conservative front-runners sputtered, Santorum plugged away, sticking doggedly to his unfashionable message of uncompromising social conservatism.

  • McManus: Romney's pain, Obama's gain

    February 12, 2012

    The rest of the country may be tiring of it, but the drawn-out, high-decibel battle for the Republican presidential nomination is just fine with the Obama campaign.

  • Those mudslinging Republicans

    February 9, 2012

    This was the week Mitt Romney should have sealed the Republican presidential nomination. He was expected to win Tuesday's caucuses in Colorado, to win or tie in Minnesota and to do credibly well in Missouri. Instead, the former Massachusetts governor managed to lose all three contests to Rick Santorum, a candidate who has spent most of the campaign stuck near the bottom of the polls.

  • McManus: Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list'?

    February 5, 2012

    When it comes to national security, Michael V. Haydenis no shrinking violet. As CIA director, he ran the Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.

  • McManus: The Gingrich playbook

    February 2, 2012

    Newt Gingrich says he's staying in the Republican presidential race all the way to the GOP convention in August, and that he's willing — even eager — to fight for the nomination on the convention floor. But does he have a chance?

  • McManus: A Gingrich presidency?

    January 29, 2012

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that if Mitt Romney won the South Carolina primary, the Republican presidential race would be over and he would be the nominee. But Romney didn't win, and that means it's time to consider the unthinkable: What would life under President Gingrich be like?

  • McManus: Obama's common touch

    January 25, 2012

    The State of the Union address is a political exercise in the best of times. But when a president is running for reelection and Congress is dominated by his most bitter opponents, there's even less pretense than usual.

  • McManus: Is Romney a true conservative?

    January 22, 2012

    For months, Mitt Romney's rivals in the Republican presidential race have hammered him as a closet moderate, especially on third-rail social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

  • McManus: Red meat for the tea party

    January 15, 2012

    Mitt Romney isn't a naturally eloquent man. His stump speeches are nearly content-free. They combine exaggerated denunciations of President Obama ("a pessimistic president," "the great complainer") and ardent professions of patriotism. "I love our country," Romney announces at every stop. "I love our national anthem.... I love it dearly. I love putting my hand over my heart." He often closes speeches by reciting lines from "America the Beautiful."

  • McManus: Romney's 'electability' is key

    January 12, 2012

    New Hampshire Republicans are practical people.

  • McManus: Obama's modest proposal on defense

    January 8, 2012

    As he unveiled his administration's new blueprint for U.S. defense strategy last week, President Obama sought to vaccinate himself against charges that he was gutting the nation's military.

  • McManus: Oops! That was the year that wasn't

    December 29, 2011

    A year ago, soon after the Tunisian uprising, I demonstrated my powers of prediction in a column about the democracy movement in the Arab world. The revolution in Tunisia, I wrote, "arose from local circumstances that don't foretell what will happen anywhere else." Three weeks later, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak fell, and the Arab Spring was in full bloom.

  • McManus: Change in Saudi Arabia

    December 25, 2011

    Women in Saudi Arabia won a small but promising victory this year. No, they aren't being allowed to drive; that's still forbidden. Most of the time, they still can't work, travel or even open bank accounts without the approval of a male guardian. But they do have this: Saudi women can now buy lingerie in stores from female salesclerks, instead of the sometimes leering men who used to staff the counters. If this modest wave of liberalization continues, they may even get fitting rooms.

  • McManus: A long goodbye to Afghanistan

    December 22, 2011

    This week, the last convoy of U.S. troops in Iraq drove noisily across the border into Kuwait and shut the gate behind them. The next drawdown comes in Afghanistan, where American forces are scheduled to disengage from most combat by the end of 2014.

  • McManus: An elusive victory in Iraq

    December 18, 2011

    With the final headlong withdrawal this month of U.S. troops from Iraq, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise to end the war. But was the nearly nine-year mission a success?

  • Could Rubio save the GOP ticket?

    December 15, 2011

    Florida's new Republican senator, 40-year-old Marco Rubio, is handsome, personable and smart. He can talk with intelligence and ease about foreign policy, the federal budget and the aspirations of the American people. And he has a Reaganesque gift for sounding reassuring, even when he's arguing for Tea Party positions such as a complete overhaul of Social Security and Medicare.

  • McManus: Obama sides with the 99%

    December 11, 2011

    Conservatives were quick to accuse President Obama of embracing class warfare in his speech last week in Osawatomie, Kan. And liberal Democrats were thrilled to see a hint of the populist president they had hoped they were voting for in 2008.

  • McManus: Tough guys on illegal immigration

    December 4, 2011

    "I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though some time back they may have entered illegally."

  • McManus: Slugging it out with Gingrich

    December 1, 2011

    The Romney camp is worried.

  • McManus: The super committee that wasn't

    November 27, 2011

    Here's an assessment from the Republican co-chairman of Congress' unfortunate "super committee" of why the bipartisan panel failed to produce a deficit reduction plan last week:

  • McManus: For GOP, it's bland vs. firebrand

    November 24, 2011

    Republican voters face a choice: Do they want to play it safe, or do they feel like taking risks?

  • McManus: Will 'New Newt' prevail?

    November 17, 2011

    When Richard M. Nixon ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, he faced a daunting problem: A lot of voters just didn't like him. Nixon had made his name in politics as an angry, partisan hatchet man, famous for lashing out against Democrats and the news media. To win the presidency, he needed to find a way to soften that too-harsh image.

  • McManus: Facing a nuclear Iran

    November 13, 2011

    The United Nations report on Iran's nuclear program released last week should end the debate, if any debate remained, over whether Iran is moving toward acquiring the ability to build a nuclear weapon. In cautious but convincing detail, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency listed evidence that Iran is still conducting research that would lead to an atomic bomb, much of it in secret military laboratories. And Iran has refused to answer the U.N.'s questions or allow U.N. inspectors to see much of what it's doing, the easiest way to refute its critics' charges.

  • McManus: Can Barack Obama be more like Bill Clinton?

    November 10, 2011

    Bill Clinton feels Barack Obama's pain.

  • McManus: Presidential crystal balls

    November 6, 2011

    Unemployment is mired at 9%, and President Obama's poll ratings are mired too. Democrats are dispirited. Republicans are fired up and ready to go. Activists on both the right and the left are demanding change.

  • McManus: What about Afghanistan?

    November 3, 2011

    Republicans usually enter a presidential campaign with a built-in advantage on at least one issue: national security. Historically, voters trust the GOP to be tougher than Democrats on defense and foreign policy.

  • McManus: The third-party wild card

    October 27, 2011

    American voters have fired two modern presidents after just one term, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. Both suffered because the economy was in poor shape, and both faced disaffection within their own parties. But there was another thing those candidates had in common: They both faced relatively strong third-party candidates in the November election.

  • McManus: Mosque and state

    October 23, 2011

    At a conference two years ago, I sat in on a meeting between U.S. officials and young Islamist politicians from Tunisia, Jordan and other countries in the Middle East. The Islamists wanted to know: Would the Americans allow them to run in free elections, even if it meant they might come to power? The Americans turned the question back at them: Would the Islamists, if they won, allow free and democratic elections, even if it might mean losing power?

  • McManus: Obama in the Occupy Wall Street camp

    October 20, 2011

    If you're one of the thousands of demonstrators sleeping in parks, carrying signs and banging on drums to protest Wall Street's hammerlock on American politics, President Obama wants you to know he feels your pain.

  • McManus: Merkel intent on keeping Eurozone united

    October 16, 2011

    Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's impossible prime minister, has committed almost every sin that modern politics affords. He entertains barely-of-age girls as overnight guests and brags about it. He appoints business cronies and television starlets to government jobs. He's under perpetual investigation for corruption.

  • McManus: Mitt Romney and the Not-Romneys

    October 13, 2011

    There may still be half a dozen contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, but the race has always had room for only two: Mitt Romney and someone who isn't Mitt Romney. After four full-scale debates, that second spot, reserved for a more conservative candidate, is still unfilled; the fiscal firebrands of the tea party haven't found an ideal alternative to Romney, leaving the party's right wing divided. It's beginning to look as if the former Massachusetts governor will win the nomination almost by default — an odd outcome to a year that began with the tea party triumphant.

  • McManus: The GOP's hard-right tilt

    September 25, 2011

    We've now seen three full-dress debates among the Republican politicians who want to be the next president of the United States, and here's what we've learned:

  • McManus: Pity the 'super committee'

    September 22, 2011

    Pity the poor "super committee." Congress' special task force on the deficit already had a mission that looked nearly impossible: producing a plan to reduce the federal government's fiscal gap by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. And then the job got harder.

  • McManus: Technology that protects protesters

    September 18, 2011

    Early this year, as street protests began spreading across the Arab world, a young Internet expert from Germany, Katrin Verclas, asked Egyptian democracy activists what kind of technology they needed most. More laptop computers? Better access to the Web? Tools to evade censorship? Software to post videos?

  • McManus: Touching the 'third rail'

    September 15, 2011

    "We have not had the courage to stand up and look Americans in the face," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said when he was asked about Social Security at the Republican presidential candidates' debate this week. "It has been called a Ponzi scheme by many people long before me. But no one's had the courage to stand up and say, 'Here is how we're going to reform it.'"

  • McManus: Obama's new tone

    September 8, 2011

    We already know the outlines of what President Obama plans to say in his long-awaited jobs speech before Congress on Thursday night. He will propose a list of job-creation measures — tax cuts, infrastructure spending, aid to state governments, training for the unemployed — that will probably add up to about $300 billion worth of economic stimulus.

  • McManus: Palin the procrastinator

    September 1, 2011

    Sarah Palin is giving indecision a bad name.

  • McManus: A two-man GOP presidential race?

    August 28, 2011

    Until a few weeks ago, the race for the Republican presidential nomination seemed wide open. There was a presumptive front-runner, Mitt Romney, but he held first place mostly because he was a familiar face; his support among Republican voters appeared broad but not deep.

  • McManus: Will there be a Libya bounce for Obama?

    August 25, 2011

    Twenty years ago this summer, American cities staged noisy, flag-waving parades to celebrate the U.S. victory in a war we've almost forgotten: the Persian Gulf War against Iraq. The president at the time, George H.W. Bush, saw his poll ratings soar in the war's afterglow. But 18 months later, on election day in 1992, the victory parades were ancient history. The voters, impatient with the economy's slow recovery from a recession, turned Bush out of office after a single term.

  • Obama's biggest challenge: Jobs

    August 7, 2011

    The central question facing Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign is this: Can the president persuade voters to let him keep his job when so many of them have lost theirs?

  • McManus: Obama's clarity gap

    August 4, 2011

    We all know by now that the eleventh-hour deal to raise the federal debt ceiling didn't solve much. Federal debt is still ballooning, healthcare costs are still rising, and we're nowhere close to an agreement on raising tax revenue.

  • McManus: The write stuff

    July 31, 2011

    The news from Washington — bickering over the debt ceiling, poor prospects for the economy — hasn't been uplifting lately. It's time for some beach reading.

  • McManus: The political angle of the debt-ceiling debate

    July 28, 2011

    It's not hard to see what a compromise solution on the debt ceiling would look like. It's just hard to see how we get there from here before the Treasury begins running out of money Aug. 2.

  • McManus: A boomlet of Perrymania

    July 24, 2011

    For a man who hasn't formally decided whether to run for president, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sure sounds a lot like a candidate.

  • McManus: Doomsday doubters and the debt ceiling

    July 21, 2011

    President Obama says that if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the consequences will be dire. A long list of economists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree. Even the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate agrees.

  • McManus: A deal with the Khartoum devil?

    July 17, 2011

    How do you deal with a genocidal dictator who says he wants to reform?

  • McManus: One good debt debate deserves another

    July 14, 2011

    Republican leaders blinked this week in their standoff with President Obama over raising the nation's debt ceiling. That means we're unlikely to face a financial crisis next month, when the Treasury said it would run short of money to pay the federal government's bills. But it doesn't mean we've solved any of our fiscal problems.

  • McManus: A measured U.S. response in Syria

    July 10, 2011

    When pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in Syria this spring, President Obama offered Syrian President Bashar Assad one more chance to embrace reform. "He can lead that transition [to democracy] or get out of the way," Obama said in May.

  • McManus: Team Obama's victory plan

    July 7, 2011

    President Obama faces an uphill struggle in his campaign for reelection next year. His job approval rating is stuck just below 50%. The unemployment rate appears likely to remain above 8% until election day. And, though it's too soon to mean much, early polling puts the nominal Republican front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, within striking distance.

  • McManus: Debt-limit delay in the real world

    July 1, 2011

    In 2008, as financial crisis threatened the U.S. banking system, President George W. Bush asked Congress to approve an emergency bailout. Leaders of both parties blessed the idea; both presidential candidates — Barack Obama and John McCain — endorsed it. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats rebelled, the House defeated the bill — and the stock market plummeted in real time during the roll call. It took the prospect of economic meltdown to get the House to reverse itself and approve Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

  • McManus: Obama's popular in Europe, where it doesn't count

    June 26, 2011

    In a deservedly obscure village among the green hills and dairy farms of Ireland's midlands stands a pub that has been turned into a shrine to Barack Obama. In the back room of Ollie Hayes' saloon, a large and markedly unattractive fake-bronze bust of the president sits on a pedestal flanked by beer glasses; over the fireplace there's a portrait of the great man hoisting a pint of Guinness, and other Obama memorabilia covers the walls.

  • Doyle McManus: The West is still waiting for its Libya gamble to pay off

    June 12, 2011

    Hope isn't a strategy. But it was a major part of NATO's decision to launch an air war against Libya's Moammar Kadafi almost three months ago.

  • Doyle McManus: Shifting sands of religion and politics

    June 5, 2011

    Of the 44 U.S. presidents, all but a handful have been affiliated with a relatively narrow list of traditional Protestant denominations.

  • Doyle McManus: Newt takes his shot

    May 29, 2011

    Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker running for the GOP presidential nomination, is trying to put some distance these days between himself and, well, himself.

  • Doyle McManus: Middle East hopes and fears

    May 22, 2011

    We may be the world's only remaining superpower, but we've been a secondary factor in the wave of change sweeping the Arab world.

  • Fighting mosques in the name of freedom

    May 19, 2011

    Last year, a Muslim congregation in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a pleasant college town of about 110,000 people southeast of Nashville, decided that the time had come to build a proper mosque.

  • Doyle McManus: Tim Pawlenty's gambit

    May 8, 2011

    Last week's Republican mini-debate may not have been the most auspicious way for a presidential candidate to introduce himself to a national audience. The stage in South Carolina didn't include most of the party's top names; instead, it boasted former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who wants to focus on gay marriage; Atlanta pizza magnate Herman Cain, who wants to run the government like a business; Rep. Ron Paul, the vinegary Texas libertarian; and Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico who hopes to be the next Ron Paul. "It looked like the bar scene from 'Star Wars,'" said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

  • Doyle McManus: Al Qaeda's very bad year

    May 5, 2011

    Al Qaeda is having a very bad year. And from the terrorists' standpoint, the death of Osama bin Laden isn't even the worst of it. The biggest potential blow is the spread of democratic politics in the Arab world. If it succeeds, Al Qaeda will be deprived of its reason for being.

  • Doyle McManus: The right budget battle to watch

    April 28, 2011

    You've no doubt been hearing the harrowing warnings about what might happen if Congress refuses to lift the federal government's debt ceiling, as some conservative Republicans have threatened.

  • Doyle McManus: GOP wannabes

    April 21, 2011

    Here's a not very bold prediction: Donald Trump won't be the Republican presidential nominee next year. He's not a credible national leader. His strategy for restoring American economic vigor boils down to threatening China with a trade war. It's not even clear that he's a conservative; he once backed Barack Obama, and he appears to favor abortion rights. The GOP can do better, and will.

  • Libya's only a part of Mideast equation

    April 17, 2011

    The eyes of the world are on the battle for Libya. It's undeniably a compelling drama: Spirited but untrained rebels, plus NATO airstrikes, pitted against an eccentric dictator with a cinematic wardrobe.

  • Drawing budget battle lines

    April 14, 2011

    In case it wasn't clear already, we now know what the 2012 election will be about: how fast to cut federal spending, whether to raise taxes and what to do about healthcare, especially Medicare.

  • Doyle McManus: The choice between low taxes vs. Medicare benefits

    April 7, 2011

    Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, won praise from his fellow Republicans this week for proposing a federal budget that would reduce the deficit by slashing spending in almost every domestic program.

  • No party for John Boehner

    April 3, 2011

    For a man who's getting most of what he wanted, House Speaker John A. Boehner looked pretty unhappy last week.

  • Doyle McManus: The GOP's Libya dilemma

    March 24, 2011

    Republican presidential hopefuls have been scrambling to figure out the right vocabulary for denouncing President Obama's decision to launch U.S. planes and ships into action against Libya's Moammar Kadafi.

  • Examining torture in the Bush era

    April 26, 2009

    Dick Cheney is right. President Obama should release any evidence the government has that shows whether torture -- sorry, "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- induced Al Qaeda detainees to give up information that saved American lives.

  • State officials pan for gold in D.C.

    April 12, 2009

    Last month, a flock of Californians streamed through Washington's halls of power seeking federal money for the state's slumping economy, gridlocked transportation system and troubled schools. To their delight, they found a Democratic administration with a sympathetic ear for the state's problems -- plus a big bag of stimulus funding to spend.

  • Obama's bipartisan moment on foreign policy

    April 5, 2009

    Don't look now, but the United States is experiencing something unusual in its recent history: a moment of bipartisan consensus on foreign policy.

  • Obama's uphill climb at the G-20 summit

    March 29, 2009

    The last time Barack Obama went to Europe, he was cheered by 200,000 rapturous Germans. This week, he faces a tougher audience.

  • Geithner can still pay off for Obama

    March 22, 2009

    Is Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner becoming a toxic asset for the Obama administration?

  • A 'back channel' appeal to Iran

    March 15, 2009

    President Obama and his aides are preparing to send a secret message to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, inviting him to open a clandestine "back channel" for direct talks between the United States and Iran.

  • Fear and loathing in Pakistan

    March 8, 2009

    Late last month, the chief of Pakistan's army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, made an unpublicized visit to the White House to meet President Obama's new national security advisor, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr.

  • The power of Obama's oratory

    February 25, 2009

    Speechmaking has always been good for Barack Obama.

  • For Obama, governing isn't campaigning

    February 15, 2009

    Barack Obama made running for president look easy. As a candidate, he was famously steady and cool, and his campaign team was a marvel of internal harmony. "No drama Obama," they called him.

  • Obama the pragmatic idealist

    February 8, 2009

    Until last week, the nation's late-night comedians were having a hard time coming up with jokes about the Obama administration. The young new president came across as both idealistic and competent, which was nice for the country but a potential disaster for the satire industry.

  • New president, new battlefield

    February 1, 2009

    In his presidential campaign, Barack Obama sometimes made foreign policy sound like a simple matter of changing the tone, turning the page -- and moving 10,000 troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

  • Great expectations -- by Americans and by Obama

    January 21, 2009

    Barack Obama has been criticized for being too cool, too aloof, even too serene. But the President Obama who delivered the inaugural address on Tuesday was anything but aloof. He was passionate and pleading, somber and demanding. And he did something his predecessor, George W. Bush, never quite did: He asked Americans to sacrifice for the common good.

  • What Bush leaves behind

    January 18, 2009

    After eight unreflective years, George W. Bush has suddenly turned contemplative, arguing in a flurry of exit interviews that his record (as Mark Twain said of Wagner's music) is better than it sounds. He could turn out to be right -- but his standing in the eyes of history now depends, oddly enough, on the fortunes of his successor, Barack Obama.

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