The First Amendment of the Constitution declares in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." What did this amendment mean to the founders who wrote it? Did they intend to establish an inviolate "wall of separation between church and state"? Or was their intent instead to merely preserve religious freedom and prevent the establishment of a national religion?
It is estimated that currently there are between 7 and 10 million illegal immigrants in this country. Meanwhile the Border Patrol has grown from a staff of 2,000 and a $100 million budget 30 years ago to 11,000 men and women and a $9 billion budget today. Clearly, our attempts to control illegal immigration have not been working. But what should we do instead? President Bush has proposed a new immigration plan that would turn illegal immigrants already here into legal temporary workers. Is his plan an acknowledgment that our economy needs cheap immigrant labor and that we simply can't control our borders any longer? Or is his plan the entirely wrong way to address the immigration problem?
From the Monroe Doctrine through the Truman Doctrine, from containment to détente, the principles behind America’s boldest foreign policy initiatives were straightforward and easy to understand. These simple principles told the rest of world what to expect from the United States and what we expected from the rest of the world. What were the principles behind American foreign policy in the 1990s? Did President Clinton apply those principles rigorously or haphazardly? How can President Bush do better?
There are often said to be two competing schools for interpreting the meaning of the Constitution. On one side are those who believe that the meaning of the Constitution must evolve over time as society itself changes. On the other side are those who insist that the original intent of the framers of the Constitution—what they wrote and what their intent was in writing it—is all that matters. Robert Bork is firmly in the latter school. We asked him to explicate his understanding of the U.S. Constitution, using recent Supreme Court decisions as case studies.
Fifty years ago, critic Lionel Trilling declared that "in the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition." Today, however, even most Democrats avoid calling themselves liberal. What happened to the liberal tradition in the second half of the twentieth century? What does liberalism stand for at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Can liberals reclaim their once-dominant position in American politics, or is their ideology history?
On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States brought an end to thirty-six days of dramatic vote recounts and legal challenges in the state of Florida. The decision let stand the initial results of Florida's election, which gave the state's electoral votes, and thus the Presidency, to George W. Bush. What was the legal justification for the Supreme Court's decision? Should the Court have intervened in the first place? And what precedent did the Court create for future elections?
In 2002, the Bush administration published a new National Security Strategy, which argued that, in the twenty-first century, it was necessary for the United States not merely to defend itself but to use military force to prevent threats such as terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction. Is preventive force just? Is it effective? And what can the biggest example of this doctrine in action, the war in Iraq, tell us about the future of preventive force? Peter Robinson speaks with Victor Davis Hanson, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Stephen Stedman.
From the 1950s through the 1980s, Japan experienced dramatic economic growth as it transformed itself from a defeated militaristic empire into a democratic, high-technology powerhouse. The Japanese economy became so dynamic that, by the late 1980s, some American experts were arguing that Japan would overtake the United States as the world's dominant economic power. And then the Japanese economy collapsed. And for nearly fifteen years, the economic malaise has continued. Why? What does Japan need to do to snap out of its doldrums? And what are the risks and benefits to American interests of a reinvigorated Japan?
Behavioral scientists have begun to argue that the findings of evolutionary science should have legal, political, and moral consequences. If behaviors such as procreation, aggression, or homosexuality are determined more by our biology than by our free will, then it is foolish, these scientists argue, to ignore that evidence. Does evolutionary science have any place in public policy? How useful is the knowledge of our biological evolution in determining the values of our legal, social, and political system?
Do enemy combatants in the war on terror have any legal rights? The United States now holds more than 650 persons captured during the war on terrorism at our naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The government is holding them indefinitely, without charging them and without offering them access to American courts or legal counsel. Is this legal? Do federal courts have jurisdiction in this matter, or do these detainees exist completely outside of the American legal system?
In March 2002, President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold Bill. The law bans political contributions known as "soft money"—that is, money from corporations, unions, and other organizations given to political parties for "party-building activities," thereby skirting campaign contribution limits. The Supreme Court has now taken up McCain-Feingold and will determine whether all or parts of the act will be upheld or overturned. Are soft money bans legal? Or do such campaign finance restrictions infringe on freedom of speech? Just how should the Court decide?
In 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss nuclear arms control. The American and Russian leaders negotiated boldly, pushing each other far past the limits of previous arms control agreements. Reagan and Gorbachev were soon close to an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The stopping point: Gorbachev insisted that America's Strategic Defensive Initiative, or "Star Wars" be scrapped. Reagan refused, and no agreements were reached. What is the legacy of the Reykjavik Summit? Was it a failure, a historic opportunity squandered? Or was it the beginning of the end of the Cold War?
Recent opinion polls that show that the American public overwhelming wants the United States to avoid taking sides in the conflict in the Middle East. Yet members of Congress have been nearly unanimous in their support of Israel in its actions against the Palestinians. Just why is our government so steadfastly supportive of Israel? Does this support further our legitimate strategic interests in the Middle East? Or is it the result of domestic special interest politics?
Should Britain continue on the path towards political and economic integration within the European Union? Many in Britain are skeptical of the benefits of political unification with continental Europe. What does Britain stand to gain or lose by ceding sovereignty to the European Union? Would Britain’s interests be better served by strengthening its special relationship with the United States?
The global AIDS pandemic is now in its third decade. Although treatments have improved and infection rates have slowed in the West, AIDS continues to take a staggering toll in Africa. And experts believe that Eurasia, particularly Russia, China, and India, may be next. Is the United States doing enough to combat the global AIDS crisis? Should the United States continue its current policy, which includes an emphasis on getting antiretroviral drugs to millions who can't now afford them? Or does the United States need to focus more on pressuring affected countries to reform their inadequate social and economic institutions? Peter Robinson speaks with Carol Adelman and Greg Behrman.
When it comes to public policy, is it time to take sex differences seriously? There is no disputing the biological differences between men and women. But how do or should these biological differences influence the roles that men and women play in modern society? Are efforts to create equality in every venue of life—from sports, via programs such as Title IX, to the working world, via the pursuit of subsidized child care and maternity leave—ultimately beneficial for women or harmful? Peter Robinson speaks with Steven Rhoads and Deborah Rhode.
As required by the Constitution, the president of the United States is elected not by the national popular vote but by the vote of the Electoral College. In the Electoral College, each state receives as many votes as it has members of Congress. Because every state has two senators and is guaranteed at least one House member, votes of small states count more heavily than votes of large states. Has the Electoral College served the nation well? Or should it be abolished and replaced by a system in which every vote counts the same? Peter Robinson speaks with Jack Rakove and Tara Ross
The Crusades happened almost a thousand years ago—why do they still provoke an argument? Osama bin Laden has used them to attempt to rally the Islamic world to his cause; President Bush has called the war on terrorism a "crusade." But what is the truth about the Crusades? Were they motivated by savage greed and intolerance or by pious idealism? Were they an unprovoked attack by the West on the Islamic world or a reaction to centuries of Islamic incursions? How should we understand the legacy of the Crusades today, in a time of conflict between the West and radical Islamic terrorists?
America has spent three decades and hundreds of billions of dollars fighting a national war on drugs. Has the war on drugs been an effective way of dealing with America's drug problem or does it cause more harm than good? How should we weigh the moral and utilitarian arguments for and against the war on drugs; in other words, do we need to intensify the war on drugs or is it time to declare a cease fire?
In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won reelection to a second term in one of the biggest landslides in American history. The outcome was a clear mandate in support of FDR's New Deal—an agenda of large-scale social and economic programs administered by the federal government. Sixty years later, in 1996, William Jefferson Clinton also won reelection to a second term, after declaring earlier that year that "the era of big government was over." How did the Democratic Party get from FDR to Bill Clinton? Now that the Democrats are out of the White House, will they continue the move to the center that Clinton initiated, or will they try to reinvigorate the traditional liberal base of the Democratic Party? Does that traditional base still exist?