George F. Will

Washington, D.C.

 George Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. He is also a regular contributor to MSNBC and NBC News. "The Conservative Sensibility," his latest book, was released in June 2019. His other works include: “One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation” (2008), “Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy” (1992), “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1989), “The New Season: A Spectator’s Guide to the 1988 Election” (1987) and “Statecraft as Soulcraft” (1983). Will grew up in Champaign, Ill., attended Trinity College and Oxford University, and received a PhD from Princeton University. 
Honors & Awards:
  • 1977 Pulitzer Prize for commentary
  • 1979 National Magazine Awards: Finalist in the essay and criticism category
  • 1978 National Headliners Award
  • 1980 Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1985 The Washington Journalism Review named Will best writer, any subject
  • 1997 Named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal
Books by George F. Will:  

The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts

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The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions

Buy it from Amazon

The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses 1981-1986

Buy it from Amazon

Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home 1986-1990

Buy it from Amazon

The Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture, and Other News, 1990-1994

Buy it from Amazon

The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric

Buy it from Amazon

With a Happy Eye, But ... America and the World, 1997-2002

Buy it from Amazon

One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation

Buy it from Amazon

Statecraft as Soulcraft

Buy it from Amazon

The New Season: A Spectator's Guide to the 1988 Election

Buy it from Amazon

Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball

Buy it from Amazon

Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy

Buy it from Amazon

The Conservative Sensibility

Buy it from Amazon
Recent Articles

GEORGE WILL COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, and thereafter.

(For Will clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By GEORGE F. WILL

WASHINGTON -- When an obviously humane and demonstrably popular policy is implemented by a seriously flawed process, the Supreme Court must do its counter-majoritarian duty. It must insist that not even an admirable social end, supported by a national majority, justifies constitutionally dubious means. This describes the drama that will unfold Tuesday when the court hears oral arguments concerning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

This pertains to the almost 800,000 so-called Dreamers in our midst, people who were under age 16 when brought to America by parents who were not lawfully residents. Congress has long been unable to address the Dreamers' status by protecting them from the manifestly unjust threat of deportation from the only country they have known.

Barack Obama's exasperation with the separation of powers, and with the existence of Congress, was even more pronounced than is normal among presidents, especially progressive ones. So he did what he had repeatedly said he lacked the power to do: He made available to these children temporary but renewable legal status and work authorization. He called this an exercise of "prosecutorial discretion." This was somewhat novel in the size of the class of individuals affected, and in affirming a right to work and other federal benefits.

When President Trump rescinded DACA, he denounced it as "an end-run around Congress" that was "unconstitutional" and his attorney general said it was "effectuated ... without proper statutory authority." Never mind the impertinence of this from a president who has declared an "emergency" in order to spend on a border wall money that Congress appropriated for other purposes.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is often in error but never in doubt, acknowledged that presidents have considerable power to undo policies put in place by executive actions of prior administrations. But the court held that the administration's reasons for rescinding DACA were arbitrary and capricious and hence violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

A brief from Ilya Shapiro and Josh Blackman (who favor DACA as policy) for the Cato Institute argues that Obama's action went beyond "constitutionally-authorized executive power." Such power is not enlarged "when Congress refuses to act, no matter how unjustified the congressional inaction is." There is no constitutional implication from Congress' passivity in the face of this "foundational transformation of immigration policy," a transformation "inconsistent with the president's duty of faithful execution."

Furthermore, if the Immigration and Nationality Act actually grants to presidents such discretion to rewrite immigration law, then the INA violates the nondelegation doctrine. This forbids Congress to delegate to executive agencies essentially legislative powers regarding "major questions," which surely encompasses immigration policy.

The Constitution's first substantive words -- the first after the Preamble -- are: "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress." The Constitution's Article I, which deals with Congress, is more than twice as long as Article II, which deals with the president and which devotes more words to how presidents shall be selected and removed than it does to everything else about the presidency. The president's core function is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." If Congress had even a faint pulse and an ounce of pride it would take care to enact laws that set immigration policy rather than churning out faux laws that give to presidents discretion tantamount to lawmaking.

The Trump administration's main reason for rescinding DACA is thoroughly disreputable but entirely permissible -- that DACA is bad policy. Another and sufficient reason, however, is that DACA was implemented in accordance with the noxious theory that presidents acquire new constitutional powers by engaging in practices that a lethargic Congress does not challenge. As Cato's brief says, "The executive branch does not need the judiciary's permission to cease enforcing a regulation it determines to be unconstitutional. ... Courts should allow reversals of novel execution actions that expand presidential power."

If the court allows the administration to withdraw DACA's humane protections for Dreamers, this might embarrass Congress into involving itself in the nation's governance. And the Trump administration will have (inadvertently) contributed to circumscribing executive power. "Taming the Prince" (the title of Harvard political philosopher Harvey Mansfield's book on executive power) requires measures "to recage the executive lion" (the words of Saikrishna Bangalore Prakash of the University of Virginia Law School in his book "The Living Presidency: An Originalist Argument against Its Ever-Expanding Powers," coming next April from Harvard University Press). Tuesday's case demonstrates the difficulty of such taming and recaging until Congress remembers the Constitution's first substantive words.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

GEORGE WILL COLUMN

(Advance for Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, and thereafter)

(For Will clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU: 2nd graf, 4th sentence: "8.4%" sted "8.5%"

By GEORGE F. WILL

EDITORS -- Effective Nov. 1, columns by George F. Will are available for print publication only.

WASHINGTON -- The torrent of astonishing talk from Democratic presidential aspirants has included two especially startling ideas. One is that we are going to die -- the climate change crisis is "existential" -- unless America does a slew of things that the aspirants (BEG ITAL)know(END ITAL) are not going to be done. And the leading progressive aspirant has endorsed an idea that would confirm hostile caricatures of progressives if any caricaturist could have imagined the idea before Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren voiced it.

About Democrats' plans for nullifying the "existential" crisis: America is really not going to achieve Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' "complete decarbonization" by 2050. America will not eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as Joe Biden promises. Fossil fuels accounted for 81.8% of energy consumption in 2018, and the Energy Information Administration projects that in 2050 the figure will be 78.9%. Perhaps higher, if Democrats succeed in abolishing carbon-free nuclear power, which in 2018 was 8.4% of energy consumption. The Democrats' threat to nuclear power's existence tells you how seriously they take their own rhetoric about the "existential" climate threat. As does their vague, tepid and perfunctory endorsement of the most efficient way to reduce carbon -- a carbon tax, which might pose an existential threat to their aspirations.

Also, America is not going to retrofit every building. Or wean people off air travel and get them onto high-speed electric trains like the forever-hypothetical one between Los Angeles and San Francisco that California is failing to build at a projected cost -- so far -- of up to $100 billion.

The late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, whose mordant wit is much missed, quipped that anything said three times in Washington becomes a fact. With the Democrats having migrated to the Trumpian universe of "alternative facts" about an achievable future, the second and third times are unnecessary. Theirs is the "believing is seeing" mentality of people who, seeing the world through ideology-tinted spectacles, think the world should be, and therefore will be, infinitely malleable under the hammer of government power wielded by them.

The almost 330 million Americans who would live between the hammer and the anvil should pay particular attention to Warren. Her gargantuan plans for comprehensively rearranging society should be considered in light of her penchant for micro-pandering, such as promising taxpayer funding of sex-reassignment surgery for transgender felons in federal prisons. Poor Bernie Sanders probably thought he had achieved peak progressivism by endorsing voting rights for the surviving Boston Marathon terrorist bomber and all other incarcerated felons. Warren's proposal is (BEG ITAL)perfect(END ITAL) political zaniness: It will attract no one who is not already attracted but will repel the kind of voters -- those who sometimes go for days on end without pondering gender fluidity -- she will need in order to win a general election.

An interestingly different Massachusetts politician, John Quincy Adams, the last president connected to the Founding generation, had a flinty patrician's belief that leaders should not be "palsied by the will of our constituents." Warren, caught up in the Democrats' woker-than-thou competition, will say anything to demonstrate that there is nothing she will not promise in order to placate any sliver of the progressive constituency.

One reason U.S. carbon emissions have fallen faster than Europe's is that fracking has made natural gas sufficiently cheap and abundant to supplant coal and oil for many purposes. Evidently Warren considers the "existential" climate threat less important than catering to progressives' hostility toward fracking, which they must consider more of a threat than the "existential" one. The Economist says that in terms of energy supplies, banning fracking "would be a bit like shutting down Saudi Arabia." It would, of course, be a boon to that nation, and Russia and Iran.

The regulatory fidgets and worse that Warren promises would not be as trivial as her sex-reassignment-surgery-for-transgender-felons gesture. As The Economist notes, such is her faith in government as "benign and effective," she ignores how government inefficiency and regulatory capture made airlines expensive and inconvenient until deregulation democratized air travel. She would abolish, break up or submit to government's 10-thumbed control "roughly half the stock market and private-equity owned firms." She is an abolitionist regarding the $530 billion private health insurance industry, which has 370,000 employees, almost twice as many as the steel and coal mining industries combined.

Many Democratic aspirants are patently insincere about what they call an existential threat, and many are disconcertingly sincere about weird minutia. It is dismayingly meaningful when they do, and when they do not, mean what they say.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

GEORGE WILL COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE. Normally advance for Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, and thereafter.)

(For Will clients only)

By GEORGE F. WILL

EDITORS -- The George F. Will column sent yesterday on demographics can now run on Sunday, Nov. 3, or another time of your choosing. Effective Nov. 1, columns by Will will be available for print publication only.

WASHINGTON -- In the rush of the passing seasons, sports memories fade like photographs left in sunlight. But before memories of the 2019 World Series are bleached by time, let us hope that one episode from Tuesday's sixth game will be indelible. A nation that now more than ever needs a reminder of the role of manners in smoothing life's rough edges got such a reminder. Two young men did not mind their manners, and two mature men put aside their intense rivalry of the moment and firmly affirmed some standards.

Alex Bregman, 25, the Houston Astros' supremely talented third baseman, is so fierce about his craft that when he was at LSU his coaches gave him a key to the batting cages rather than endure calls from him wanting to practice in the dead of night. In the first inning Tuesday night, he hit a home run, which was admirable, and then did something that was not: He admired it. For the first and surely the last time in his major league career, he ostentatiously carried his bat all the way to first base before discarding it. This was preening.

Which is an infectious virus. In the fifth inning, Juan Soto, the Washington Nationals' 21-year-old prodigy, crushed a monster home run -- and carried his bat to first base because he thought this was "pretty cool."

After the game, Bregman, who carries baseball's culture in his DNA, apologized. Then did so again. Then a third time. His manager, A.J. Hinch, 45, evenhandedly disapproved of both players' comportment. Soto's manager, Dave Martinez, 55, deplored Bregman's behavior as much as Bregman did, and said: "I didn't like it when [Soto] did it as well. It's a conversation I'll have with Juan. That's not who we are." Or who we intend to remain.

Although baseball once was unambiguously "the national pastime," other sports have prospered as Americans' leisure time and discretionary income have increased. Competition for sports fans' attention and dollars has intensified now that there are just six weeks between the last NBA championship game and the first NFL preseason game. Baseball, however, remains unique -- and indispensable -- because it tries to remain an oasis of reticence in a culture of exhibitionism. There are those in Washington who could learn something important from the Nationals' manager.

Football has been blighted by endzone dances by players who are pleased with themselves for scoring touchdowns. They should be reminded of what Vince Lombardi supposedly said to one such preener: "The next time you make it to the end zone, act like you've been there before."

Baseball inoculates itself against unseemly behavior by means of rules that, although unwritten, are not unenforced, as Hinch and Martinez demonstrated. Just as the common law is derived from ancient social practices and judicial precedents, baseball's codes are the game's distilled mores. Their unchanging purpose is to encourage players, in the midst of passionate exertions, to show respect for opponents and the game. In baseball, as in the remainder of life, the most valuable rules are unwritten. By the observance of unwritten rules, mostly learned from parents, we avoid being codified into social death -- smothered by written rules and drowned in formal adjudications as learned civility withers.

On June 2, 2010, with two outs in the ninth inning, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game -- 27 batters up, 27 down -- something that had only been done 20 times in more than a century of major league baseball. Then first base umpire James Joyce made an obvious mistake, calling the 27th Cleveland Indians batter safe when he was clearly out on a ground ball. With nothing more demonstrative than a wry smile, Galarraga stoically went about getting the 27th out. In post-game comments, Joyce forthrightly regretted his misjudgment, and Galarraga said, in effect: To err is human, and tomorrow is another game. The next day, the Tigers took the unusual step of having a player -- Galarraga -- present the lineup card to the home plate umpire who, as is standard practice, had been the previous game's first base umpire. Galarraga and Joyce shook hands.

Now, which would you have preferred, a perishable memory of what would then have been a rare perfect game, or this unforgettable example of mutual graciousness? Of course.

Some say that baseball's unwritten standards are out of date. But as has been well said (by a character in an Alan Bennett play), standards are always out of date -- that is why we call them standards.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

About
George Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. He is also a regular contributor to MSNBC and NBC News. "The Conservative Sensibility," his latest book, was released in June 2019. His other works include: “One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation” (2008), “Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy” (1992), “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1989), “The New Season: A Spectator’s Guide to the 1988 Election” (1987) and “Statecraft as Soulcraft” (1983). Will grew up in Champaign, Ill., attended Trinity College and Oxford University, and received a PhD from Princeton University.
Books
  • The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts
  • The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions
  • The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses 1981-1986
  • Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home 1986-1990
  • The Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture, and Other News, 1990-1994
  • The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric
  • With a Happy Eye, But ... America and the World, 1997-2002
  • One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation
  • Statecraft as Soulcraft
  • The New Season: A Spectator's Guide to the 1988 Election
  • Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball
  • Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy
  • The Conservative Sensibility
Awards
  • 1977 Pulitzer Prize for commentary
  • 1979 National Magazine Awards: Finalist in the essay and criticism category
  • 1978 National Headliners Award
  • 1980 Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1985 The Washington Journalism Review named Will best writer, any subject
  • 1997 Named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal
Links