Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune, where he has been a member of the editorial board since 1981. He came to the Tribune from The New Republic magazine, where he was an associate editor. He has contributed articles to Slate, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard and Reason, and has appeared on numerous TV and radio news programs, including The CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation. Born in Brady, Texas, in 1954, Chapman grew up in Midland and Austin. He attended Harvard University, where he was on the staff of the Harvard Crimson, and graduated with honors in 1976. He has been a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and has served on the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School.

recent articles

Appease This!

On April 1, 2001, a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter collided over the South China Sea, forcing the Americans to make an emergency landing on Chinese soil. But the Chinese government said it would not release the crew until it got an apology. The Bush administration tried to find other ways to satisfy … Read more

The Flaws of Mitt and Newt

  Newt Gingrich has an exquisitely sensitive moral antenna, and Mitt Romney’s remark suggesting indifference to the poor sent it quivering. “I am fed up with politicians in either party dividing Americans against each other,” he said. Yes, he did. Then he fell on the floor and laughed till he cried. For Gingrich to disavow … Read more

Obama’s Justices vs. Obama

  Barack Obama, the law professor who railed against the Bush administration’s disdain for privacy, has been to civil liberties what the Hindenburg was to air travel: an unexpected debacle. Time after time, he has chosen to uphold government power at the expense of individual protections. Warrantless wiretapping in national security cases? For it. Detaining … Read more

The Republicans’ Cow Pie Bingo

  The Republican presidential race now moves from New Hampshire to South Carolina, but it’s really taking place in an upside-down Lake Wobegon — where all the men are homely, all the women are weak and all the candidates are below average. We are often told that modern campaigns generate rivers of pointless trivia and … Read more

Czar Barack

  Back in 2007, when Barack Obama was running for president, a mildly surprising bit of news emerged: He and Dick Cheney were eighth cousins. Today, though, it appears that report was wrong. Judging from Obama’s record in office, the two are practically brothers. As a candidate, Obama criticized the last administration for holding Americans … Read more

The Implausibility of Nuclear Terrorism

 Editor’s Note: Steve Chapman is on vacation. The following column was originally published in February 2008.   “Death tugs at my ear and says, ‘Live, I am coming.’” Were Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. alive today, he might ascribe that line not to death but to nuclear terrorism. Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, … Read more

Vladimir Putin’s Divided Russia

  Moscow is not a city of ghosts, but on Saturday, tens of thousands of figures were seen marching in the Russian capital chanting, “We exist! We exist!” That might seem like an exercise in the obvious. But the crowd thought a reminder was in order for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has generally regarded … Read more

The Surprising Truth About Obama’s ‘War on Religion’

  Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a new TV spot accusing President Obama of waging “war on religion.” It’s a reckless, overstated spot that exploits prejudice against gays while deliberately distorting major issues. But here’s the surprise: Perry has a point. The First Amendment forbids any law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. It’s a … Read more

Barack Obama, Class Warrior?

  Someday, when today’s adults are old and gray, their grandchildren will sit down and ask, “What did you do in the class war?” You may not have noticed, but it seems we are in the midst of one. On this point, Republican candidates and officeholders are in agreement. Newt Gingrich accuses President Barack Obama … Read more

The Strange Journey from Mitt to Newt

  It’s not hard to understand why so many conservatives spurn Mitt Romney. He’s had to slink away from past liberal positions on one major issue after another: health care reform, abortion, gun control and climate change. Many on the right are not reassured. They want a true conservative who’s been with them all along. … Read more

Eat Less Salt, or Else

  “Put down the salt shaker and back away from the table. And don’t even think about going for the chips.” Those are lines you may hear on a TV police drama of the future, when the federal drive to curb salt consumption reaches cruising speed. Last year, the government’s Institute of Medicine urged the … Read more

Putin and Stalin: Revising Reality

  Editor’s Note: Steve Chapman is on vacation. The following column was originally published in September 2007. In most countries, the future is impossible to predict, but the past doesn’t change. In Russia, it’s just the opposite. President Vladimir Putin, when he is not busy restoring autocracy to a country that has known little else, … Read more

An Amendment Isn’t the Answer

  When I graduated from college in 1976, I got a job in Washington with the National Taxpayers Union, which was working to get a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. Someone graduating today could sign up there and pursue the same goal. The balanced-budget amendment has never gone away and never come … Read more

Put Tax Breaks for Mortgages, Local Taxes on Table

  Supercommittee members Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Jeb Hensarling are taking flak from some conservatives for proposing a deal including increases in “revenues,” and a Washington Post reporter had some fun insinuating that they were backing a tax-rate increase. As this is written, no one knows what the supercommittee will do (or not do), … Read more

Why Not Huntsman?

  He’s a responsible, well-spoken adult with a good record in office, a soothing style, bipartisan appeal and ample knowledge of the world beyond our shores. But Jon Huntsman, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, somehow imagines he can overcome those handicaps. He’s running at 2 percent in the polls, but working in his … Read more

Newt Gingrich, Myth and Mouth

Republican voters’ esteem for Newt Gingrich has been rising fast. At this rate it might someday equal, though not surpass, his regard for himself. Gingrich is not a person with an ego. He’s an ego with a person. Just listen to his explanation of why it took him a while to catch on with voters: … Read more

How Did New York City Win the War on Crime?

  One December day in 1984, a man named Bernard Goetz boarded a subway train in Manhattan. Shortly after, he was approached by four young men, all black, who requested money in a manner he took as threatening. Goetz, who had been mugged before, pulled out a pistol and opened fire, wounding all four. Among … Read more

Romney’s Low-Content Campaign

  DAVENPORT, Iowa — As a crowd of more than 100 waits patiently for Mitt Romney’s late arrival, the sound system blares country singer Alan Jackson: “You must be the dream I’ve been dreamin’ of/Oh, what a feelin’, it must be love.” That selection suggests it’s Romney who is dreaming. He’s been running for president … Read more

What Occupy Wall Street Gets Wrong

  If you want to know what motivates the people involved in Occupy Wall Street, you can get a good idea from Think Progress, a left-leaning website. It offers a map of the continental United States labeled, “If U.S. land were divided like U.S. wealth.” In this representation, 1 percent of the people hold title … Read more

The Growing Aversion to Abortion

The abortion debate has raged since 1973, when the Supreme Court gave abortion constitutional protection, but the basic law of the land has proved immutable. Abortion is legal, and it’s going to remain legal for a long time. Laws often alter attitudes, inducing people to accept things — such as racial integration — they once … Read more

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