Vol. 49, No. 3

In this edition

The rise of ISIS. The expansion of China. The very real danger that Russia poses to the West. With the possible exception of China, these threats were unimaginable before 9/11. Yet today, they represent perhaps the three greatest challenges we face around the world.

Putin’s Push for Power

In 2009, the Obama administration “reset” relations with Russia, an attempt at unilateral withdrawal and concession to gain cooperation from Vladimir Putin’s regime. Unfortunately, the reset has proved to be a miserable failure because Putin respects only strength.

Is Time Working for or Against Putin?

Even though Vladimir Putin faces no political opposition at home, he is presiding over a troubled economy that would keep any politician up at night. What ails the Russian economy? Take your pick.

Separating Fact from Fiction

As Russia attacks the post-World War II security structure, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is cutting through the haze of propaganda to make sure the truth is told and the message of freedom and democracy is promoted in oppressed regions of the world.

The War on ISIS: Getting Beyond Stalemate

One year after the President announced a campaign to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an examination of what the campaign has — and has not — achieved, and what more needs to be done to restore some semblance of order in the Middle East.

Why the Stakes are so High in the South China Sea

The South China Sea lies at the nexus of a global economy on which the prosperity of all major trading nations depends, which is why China’s expansion in the region is so alarming, and why the United States must stand with its allies and partners across the region.

The Price of Our Security

In the face of growing budget constraints, lawmakers must find a way to bridge the partisan divide and reach agreement on a plan to guarantee the nation’s security in an increasingly dangerous and volatile world.

The Indispensable Nation

A generational struggle is underway to win a battle of ideas around the world. As the battle rages on, one country must lead the way to victory — America.

A Lesson in Hope from Dharavi

In the past 20 years, free enterprise has transformed India. Between 1965 and 1975, per capita income in the country rose by just 0.3 percent annually. But from 2005 to 2013, that figure has more than doubled, from $740 to $1,570.

Tackling a Troublesome Tax Code

More than 40 states currently impose a personal income tax on income earned within their borders, regardless of the earner’s state of residency. With more Americans traveling out of state for their jobs, two Members of Congress have introduced legislation to ease this burden.

The New Epidemic

With the price tag for heroin, alcohol and other drug abuse totaled more than $6 billion annually in Kentucky, a look at how one community in the state is trying to fight the problem and prevent this scourge from ruining — and ending — more lives.

Ripon in the Reagan Years

With THE RIPON FORUM celebrating its 50th year of publication, one of the journal’s longtime editors looks back at the accomplishments of The Ripon Society in the 1980s and how the organization fought to keep the vision of “broad Republicanism” alive.

Ripon Profile of Larry Hogan

The Governor of Maryland discusses his first year in office, which has been marked not only by his successful effort to roll back the “rain tax,” but by his courageous battle to defeat cancer.

Ripon in the Reagan Years

(Editor’s note: this is the third in a series of essays being published this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of THE RIPON FORUM.)


Editing THE RIPON FORUM throughout the 1980s, and being part of a team that helped rebuild the scrappy Ripon Society during that decade, will always stand out as one of the most satisfying periods of my career. Maybe the most satisfying part.

At one moment we were on trains to New York looking for donors to fund the FORUM, our papers and our conferences. At another, we were trying to build a network of big-tent Republicans on Capitol Hill and around the country. At yet another, we were trying to frame issues, develop break-through ideas and present serious scholarship.

Not that we always succeeded. When you work out of an alley on Capitol Hill for most of a decade as we did, you are not necessarily dominating the political conversation. We would have killed for a broader donor base to get out of that alley, by the way.

And, in hindsight, I wish I had appreciated more of Ronald Reagan’s core strengths: He had a vision and the determination and skill to present it. Those were special talents.

Still, we did keep the cause of a broad Republicanism alive. We were able to present a vision of a Republicanism that celebrated the rights of women, minorities and economically disadvantaged Americans while also championing open markets, global commerce and limited government.

We were able to present a vision of a Republicanism that celebrated the rights of women, minorities and economically disadvantaged Americans while also championing open markets, global commerce and limited government.

Jim Leach, Bill Clinger, Bill Frenzel, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, Nancy Kassebaum, Mark Hatfield, John Danforth and Olympia Snowe were part of the network of 35-odd legislators that formed our Congressional Advisory Board. Ripon staffers and colleagues like Rick Kessler, Greg Knopp, Ken Ruberg, Jayne Hart, Dulce Zahniser, Steve Messinger and I drew support from them. Some of those same leaders contributed to the 25th anniversary edition of this magazine in 1988.

By the time George H.W. Bush became president, urging a kinder, gentler nation, Ripon was strong enough to help define such an America. Jim Pinkerton of the Bush White House joined us for a panel discussion at Howard University about ways to create an inclusive, thriving America. Speakers like Tom Kean, Shirley Temple Black and Jack Kemp took on the same issues at Ripon dinners. And the pages of the RIPON FORUM engaged a diverse range of thinkers and leaders, including Presidents Bush and Ford, Newt Gingrich, George Will, T. Boone Pickens and Eric Sevareid.

Part of our mission was to sustain a dialogue across various parts of the GOP and beyond. We also used our platform to look at nuts-and-bolt issues that affect Americans’ lives, like health care, roads and bridges, and local schools. One way we took on those topics was through our 1988 book: A Newer World.

Part of our mission was to sustain a dialogue across various parts of the GOP and beyond.

The 1980s also were when we held conferences with fellow center-right groups across Europe. Sessions in Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Brussels and Berlin were naturally fun and stimulating. More important, they created longstanding relationships with conservative parties in Britain, France and Germany. And trips to Prague and Budapest shortly after the Iron Curtain fell quickened our understanding of the menacing nature of communism and the deep desire for freedom that resided behind that curtain.

I headed back to Texas to join the Dallas Morning News’ editorial board in 1991. But I returned home with a trove of memories and an appreciation for the opportunities the last decade created. We no longer had to worry about having enough money to buy enough wine and cheese for a small Philly fundraiser. (True story) Still, more work was left.

That is the way spirited organizations like Ripon should always be. You hand off to a new brigade the chance to apply your values to a different period. In Ripon’s case, the values are those of a humane conservatism. I am grateful for them and for the part of Ripon’s history that my colleagues and I were able to occupy.

William McKenzie served as editor of THE RIPON FORUM from 1981-1991 and as executive director of the Ripon Society from 1987-1991. After 22 years at The Dallas Morning News, where he and two colleagues shared a Pulitzer Prize, he joined the George W. Bush Institute as editorial director in 2014.