"How can they possibly think that?" It's a sentiment you've probably expressed at one time or another when witnessing the wrong-headedness of people on the other side of a political debate. And it comes up not just on matters of philosophy but on matters of fact. It's not just politicians and pundits anymore: We're seeing substantial portions of the public coming to positions that seem absurd or reprehensible -- and that they might not have believed just a short time ago.
Now that you've had an entire week to get over the trauma of filing your tax return, it might be a good time to step back from all the overheated rhetoric and acknowledge a few important facts about being American in these troubled times. No, we don't suffer under a terribly burdensome, confiscatory tax regime. And yes, our taxes actually buy us some pretty important stuff. But you'd never know that, given just how crazy the coming of April 15 makes some people. Depending on who's in the White House, that is.
Gay marriage advocate Beth Robinson, center, holds back tears following the passage of a gay marriage bill in Vermont. The state became the fourth to legalize gay marriage last Tuesday. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
It sometimes seems as though American domestic political history is one long conflict between the guardians of tradition and the forces of progress. The controversies change, but the essence of the battle remains the same, whether the contestants are arguing over slavery, women's suffrage, Jim Crow, or abortion rights.
If you were watching the leaders of the G-20 nations speak to the world at their recently concluded summit in London, you might have noticed something familiar. Something modern yet comforting, authoritative without being stern, confident but not showy. I'm not talking about President Barack Obama or any of the other assembled presidents and prime ministers. I'm talking about a typeface. More than a few people probably said what I did when they looked at the G-20 logo: “Isn’t that Barack Obama’s font?”
On Jan. 25, 1961, the dashing new president of the United States delivered the first presidential press conference to be televised live. Amid numerous questions about tensions with the Soviet Union and upcoming domestic legislation came this query: "Mr. President, there has been some apprehension about the instantaneous broadcasts of presidential press conferences such as this one, and the contention being that an inadvertent statement is no longer correctible, as in the old days, could possibly cause some grave consequences. Do you feel that there is any risk or could you give us some thought on that?"