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America’s leading review of the arts and intellectual life
- Harry Mount, the London Telegraph



Speech defects

by James Bowman

Posted: Feb 10, 2016 11:06 AM

Donald Trump, via / © Reuters

Number me among those who think that the Trump phenomenon is very largely a revolt against “political correctness”—especially if you count (as you should) as a manifestation of PC the disastrous, pacifist-inspired foreign policy pursued by the Obama administration under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. I don’t think I would go as far as Tim Stanley in today’s London Daily Telegraph who writes that “Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have blown up political correctness in New Hampshire.” Apart from anything else, if he thinks those who flock to Bernie Sanders’s standard are reacting against political correctness, his definition of the term differs significantly from mine. Yet an article in the Times Literary Supplement, for which I used to work, suggests that maybe that definition does need to change. Barton Swaim, whose brilliant book The Speechwriter I reviewed for The Weekly Standard last summer, reviews Stephen Fender’s book titled The Great American Speech: Words and monuments (Reaktion) in the TLS’s January 22 issue and finds it instructive in explaining the appeal of a man like Trump who, we may confidently predict, will never deliver a Great American Speech, whatever other virtues he may have.

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Good-bye national honor

by James Bowman

Posted: Jan 15, 2016 01:41 PM

Alan Rickman as Hamlet, via

                        Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain, breaks my pate across,
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face,
Tweaks me by th’nose, gives me the lie i’th’throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
Hah? ‘Swounds, I should take it; for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should ‘a’ fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal.

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Barack Obama on war

by James Bowman

Posted: Dec 07, 2015 03:56 PM

President Barack Obama, last night/ Photo Courtesy:

Everybody noticed the conspicuous presence of one word in President Obama’s address to the nation last night—in fact, it was almost the only thing about it that was worth noticing. But besides that word, “terrorism,” there was another word that you have rarely heard the President utter, at least in the context of foreign wars: “victory.” Even more remarkable was the fact that he used it not to describe the hopeful result of what he was proposing to do against the Islamic State but about what he was doing already: “The strategy that we are using now,” he said, “—air strikes, special forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country—that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory, and it won't require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.”

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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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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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