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- Harry Mount, the London Telegraph



Professor Obama explains his strategy

by James Bowman

Posted: Nov 19, 2015 11:28 AM

Professor Obama, via

Commenting on President Obama’s press conference in Turkey on Monday, Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary wrote this:

For all of his manifold talents, President Obama’s chief shortcoming remains a dogged refusal to ever consider the possibility that he might be mistaken. To an objective observer, the course of the war in Iraq and Syria, as well as the spread of Islamist terror on his watch, would at the very least call into question the President’s strategy. Yet everything that has happened in the last seven years has only served to deepen Obama’s conviction that he was right about everything in the first place. As much as it is hard for [George W.] Bush to shake the reputation of a failed president, he had one characteristic that Obama lacks: the ability to admit error and change his mind to adapt to circumstances.

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Of lies and liars

by James Bowman

Posted: Nov 12, 2015 02:37 PM

Enrico Mazzanti's Pinocchio, 1883, via

Way back in 2012 in the pages of The New Criterion, I wrote an essay (see “Lexicographic Lies” in The New Criterion of October 2012) on the subtle re-definition of the word “lie,” which has had a much more profound impact on our public life even than I realized at the time. Briefly stated, the idea was that in virtually every up-to-date dictionary, the distinction between “lie” and “mistake” has been elided by the elimination from the definition of what had once been thought crucial to the meaning of the word, which was any intention to deceive. I wondered at the time whether this had been done retroactively in order to justify the chant of the anti-war left, “When Bush (or Blair) lied, how many died?”

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Richard Nixon, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

by James Bowman

Posted: Oct 30, 2015 10:45 AM


It’s unlikely to make much difference in the long run, but the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by her husband as President back in the days when the Defense of Marriage was politically popular and therefore not the act of a bigot, tells us something interesting about what seems to me to be the central contradiction of progressivism. “I think what my husband believed,” said Mrs. Clinton, “is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America and that there had to be some way to stop that. . . . In a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.”

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Curing cancer would seem easy by comparison

by James Bowman

Posted: Oct 22, 2015 02:35 PM

A young Joe Biden with then-President Jimmy Carter, via


The most interesting thing about Joe Biden’s non-campaign speech yesterday was not so much its criticism of Hillary Clinton—who, however, was not named—as what he chose to criticize her for, which was her identifying the Republicans in last week’s Democratic debate as “enemies” she was proud to have made. The Vice President said:

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The Pope heeds the media’s warning

by James Bowman

Posted: Oct 06, 2015 02:39 PM

Kim Davis, via


The mighty media scandal machine has another triumph to celebrate as the Vatican, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times, has effectively acknowledged guilt in the meeting last week between the pope and Kim Davis by disavowing any support for Ms. Davis’s quixotic refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky. It was the papal nuncio in Washington who arranged the meeting, the Vatican spokesman now says. It was just one of many with lots of different people “due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.” In other words, as the Times put it: “On Friday, the Vatican appeared to be distancing itself from Ms. Davis’s camp.”

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Bard News

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 30, 2015 02:18 PM

Professor John McWhorter, via


He’s at it again. The Wall Street Journal at the weekend ran another piece by Professor John McWhorter of Columbia heralding the increasingly common theatrical practice of translating the plays of Shakespeare into simpler, more contemporary language in order to facilitate comprehension. Or at least what audiences wishing to be spared the trouble of understanding what Shakespeare actually wrote believe is comprehension. It is Dr. McWhorter’s purpose to flatter that belief and to reassure those who want Shakespeare without difficulty, Shakespeare pre-digested for easy swallowing, that they are quite right to do so.

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Authentic trumps rude

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 21, 2015 10:27 AM

Donald Trump's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame via


The invitation list to the White House for the welcoming ceremony ostensibly in honor of the Pope’s visit to America this week is yet another example, if one were needed, of the breakdown of civility in America. Or rather, it was not so much the invitations to avowed opponents of the Church’s doctrine and teachings as the assumption on President Obama’s part that neither he nor his party would pay any political price for such rudeness to a guest and a respected figure in an even more respected office who is also a foreign head of state. One must suppose him right in this assumption, too, in the absence of any reproof to his bad manners from anyone not already numbered among the President’s political enemies. The Vatican itself, though unofficially and anonymously expressing a certain chagrin at the Pope’s treatment, has not so far shown any disposition to lodge an official protest.

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On Remembering . . . and forgetting

by James Bowman

Posted: Sep 11, 2015 11:46 AM

Photo: Oliver Douliery/Getty Images via

Or else what? It’s hard to believe that President Obama has never heard these words or felt the cold, hard grip of fear upon the heart that they induce in normal people when their bluff is called by a bigger, stronger, meaner adversary whom they have had the temerity or foolishness to challenge or reprove. Or else what? What are you going to do about it? Put up or shut up. Most of us—at least most of us who have had normal childhoods involving run-ins with playground bullies—recognize in those words a challenge that cannot be ducked without a devastating sense of shame at our own cowardice. It’s the kind of shame that can only be wiped away by fighting back, even at the risk of losing the fight, since the shame of losing, though bad enough, is not so bad as that shame.

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Fairness for the fair sex

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 27, 2015 04:27 PM

Times Square, October 1919

In a typically lumbering and awkward attempt at irony, Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post writes that “A new terror imperils New York, threatening to destroy all that it—nay, America—holds dear.” You could tell by the old-fashioned language in “nay” and the “holds dear” that she was being ironic. That’s good, because things that are non-ironically but putatively destructive of all we hold dear are rather a drug on the journalistic market these days, and one wouldn’t want to be blundering into yet another one of them by reading any further. But the relatively trivial matter which she wishes to trivialize further by her ridicule is the appearance in Times Square of bare breasted but usually body-painted women calling themselves desnudas who pose with tourists for tips. Some people don’t like this and are urging, not without result, the impeccably liberal powers that be in New York to do something about it.

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A party without heroes

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 19, 2015 09:50 AM

President and Mrs. Truman at a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

According to The New York Times, “State by State, [the] Democratic Party Is Erasing Ties to Jefferson and Jackson.” I’d have thought that “ties” were things to be “cut” rather than “erased,” but it turns out that “erased” in the once-favored etymological sense of “rooted up” is what the headline writer meant.

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About ArmaVirumque


( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)


In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.


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