Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.

By this author

The Rabbi and the Two Pockets

At Tuesday's town forum, Rabbi Spira-Savit, in asking Clinton a question, quoted what turns out to be a Hasidic story of two notes, one in each pocket: "How do you cultivate the ego, the ego that we all know you must have, a person must have to be the leader of the free world, and also the humility to recognize that we know that you can’t be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?” His question to Hillary elicited a thoughtful answer about balancing ego and humility.

Hillary and Bernie: Come to Jesus Moments

Thomas Mann, calm and coherent observer of our political system and Senior Fellow at Brookings, has a succinct overview of the 2016 election, namely the major difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Furies on the Loose

Phew! Iowa over. On to New Hampshire. The New York Times's opinionized front-page newsish story has this: "Fury Shakes the Iowa Caucus."

All those Iowans at the celebratory campaign events looked pretty cheerful to me. Is that enthusiasim being called "Fury."

The Hillary/Bernie Imaginaries

There is more to elections than the candidate's policies and positions. Nodding off during the last Democratic debate, I had this imaginary: Hillary reminds people of their mothers; if they love/like their mothers, she'll do okay. Bernie reminds people of their grandfathers; and he'll do well with those who admire their grandfathers. 

Another piece of imaginary: why do polls show younger people going for Bernie and older people going for Hillary (this may be giving polls more credence than they deserve).

Sanity Caucus Dominates Republican Debate

I didn't make it home for the whole Republican debate last night, but the parts I watched showed that it was a blessing that Donald Trump did not show up. I will vote for NONE of them, but I thought Bush, Kasich, and Paul (alphabetical order) showed a level of intellegence and seriousness not previouly seen among the Repub debaters. Here's a link to the Fox Recap, but you can probably find the whole thing still running on Fox. Megyn Kelly did something weird to her hair, but not to worry.

Of Kettles and Pots MORE

In a world where charges, counter-charges, and uber-charges of anti-Semitism are rife, there is one place where the charge would be ridiculous--Israel. Think again.

Be Afraid!! Really, Really Afraid!!

While the country is wandering in a miasma of fear over terrorists attacks by ISIS or Al Qaeda or...Russia! David Brooks suggests something we should really be afraid of--Ted Cruz. He refers to his speeches as "pagan brutalism." Wow, David. Far out.

Saudi Arabia: How Do We Know What We Know?

The upheaval and uproar over the Saudi behading of a Shiite cleric continues with Iran now claiming that the Saudis have bombed their embassy in Yemen (hard to believe, of course, that it could still be standing....). 

The juxtaposition of two items I read this morning suggest how fraught and complicated matters can get and not just in the Middle East, but right here in DC.

Religious Freedom for Me, but for You... UPDATE

The execution by Saudi Arabia of Shia religious leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has set the already fraught ME into a greater uproar if that is possible. The Sheikh may have been a thorn in the side of the Sauds, but his activities hardly seemed to have required execution! even in Saudi Arabia. So you have to ask: Was this a provocation against Iran? We might further ask: if the possibility of an agreement on Syria led Saudia Arabia to stir the pot?

'Take 'em Out'

"Take 'em out" is a favored refrain of the Republican primary candidates. The 'em in that headline is ISIS in Iraq and Syria. President Obama has offered a number of reasons why that will not happen with U.S. boots on the ground. Paul Pillar reviews the various Republican claims and Obama's somewhat cautious rejoinders.