With the end of Fidel Castro's nasty life Friday night, we can hope, if not reasonably expect, to have seen the last of charismatic totalitarians worshiped by political pilgrims from open societies. Experience suggests there will always be tyranny tourists in flight from what they consider the boring banality of bourgeois society and eager for the excitement of sojourns in "progressive" despotisms that they are free to admire and then leave.
Seventeen days before President Donald Trump, his spoken oath of office still lingering in the wintry air, lifts his left hand from Scripture (a leather-bound edition of "The Art of the Deal"), the Republican-controlled Congress will begin working. Fittingly, on Jan. 3 the First Branch of government will go first, flexing its somewhat atrophied Article I muscles.
The Republican Party resembles the man who told his psychiatrist, "I have an identity problem, and so do I." The party's leader is at best indifferent to, and often is hostile to, much of the party's recent catechism: limited government, the rule of law, a restrained executive, fiscal probity, entitlement reforms, free trade, the general efficiency and equity of markets allocating wealth and opportunity, and -- this matters especially -- the importance of decorousness in political discourse.
As the presidential campaigns sink to the challenge of demonstrating that there is no such thing as rock bottom, remember this: When the Clintons decamped from Washington in January 2001, they took some White House furnishings that were public property. They also finished accepting more than $190,000 in gifts, including two coffee tables and two chairs, a $7,375 gratuity from Denise Rich, whose fugitive former husband had been pardoned in President Clinton's final hours.
In 49 states, when you order breakfast in a restaurant you might be asked if you would like pancakes or an omelet. In Wisconsin, you are asked if you would like pancakes with your omelet. Ron Johnson would, thank you. This Republican U.S. senator, who is burning prodigious amounts of calories campaigning for a second and final term, really does represent the hearty eaters who were fueling up at a Perkins restaurant here on a recent Sunday morning.
A specter is haunting academia, the specter of specters -- ghosts, goblins and "cultural appropriation" through insensitive Halloween costumes. Institutions of higher education are engaged in the low comedy of avoiding the agonies of Yale.
Another small step was taken last week on the steep and winding ascent back to constitutional norms. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the nation's second-most important court, did its judicial duty by reprimanding Congress for abandoning constitutional propriety.
"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."
-- "Me and Bobby McGee"
Vladimir Putin's serial humiliations of America's bewildered secretary of state regarding Syria indicate Putin's determination to destabilize the world. Here is an even more ominous indication of events moving his way: On just one day last week, Italian ships plucked 6,055 migrants from the Mediterranean.
Looking on the bright side, perhaps this election can teach conservatives to look on the dark side. They need a talent for pessimism, recognizing the signs that whatever remains of American exceptionalism does not immunize this nation from decay, to which all regimes are susceptible.