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George F. Will

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George F. Will

George Will
Cardinals baseball game, Labor Day 2006
Born George Frederick Will
(1941-05-04) May 4, 1941 (age 73)
Champaign, Illinois
Residence Washington, D.C.
Citizenship US
Alma mater Trinity College
Magdalen College, Oxford
Princeton University
Occupation Columnist, journalist, author
Employer Fox News, Newsweek, Washington Post
Spouse(s) Madeleine Will (divorced 1989); Mari Maseng (current)
Children Victoria, Geoffrey, and Jonathan (first marriage); David (second marriage)
Parents Frederick L. Will and Louise Hendrickson Will

George Frederick Will (born May 4, 1941) is an American newspaper columnist, journalist, and author. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner best known for his conservative commentary on politics. In 1986, the Wall Street Journal called him "perhaps the most powerful journalist in America", in a league with Walter Lippmann (1889–1974).[1][2]

Education and early career

Will was born in Champaign, Illinois, the son of Frederick L. Will and Louise Hendrickson Will.[3] His father was a professor of philosophy, specializing in epistemology, at the University of Illinois.

Will graduated from University Laboratory High School of Urbana, Illinois, and Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut (BA, Religion, 1962).[4] He subsequently studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Magdalen College, University of Oxford (BA, MA), and received MA and PhD degrees in politics from Princeton University. His 1968 PhD dissertation was entitled Beyond the Reach of Majorities: Closed Questions in the Open Society.

From 1970 to 1972, he served on the staff of Senator Gordon Allott (R-CO). Will then taught political philosophy at the James Madison College of Michigan State University, and at the University of Toronto. He taught at Harvard University in 1995 and again in 1998.

Journalism career

Will served as an editor for National Review from 1972 to 1978. He joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 1974, writing a syndicated biweekly column, which became widely circulated among newspapers across the country and continues today. His column is syndicated to 450 newspapers.[5] In 1976 he became a contributing editor for Newsweek, writing a biweekly backpage column until 2011.

Will was widely praised by liberals for condemning the corruption of the Nixon presidency. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for "distinguished commentary on a variety of topics" in 1977.[6] Often combining factual reporting with conservative commentary, Will's columns are known for their erudite vocabulary, allusions to political philosophers, and frequent references to baseball.[7]

Will has also written two bestselling books on the game of baseball, three books on political philosophy, and has published eleven compilations of his columns for the Washington Post and Newsweek and of various book reviews and lectures.

Will was also a news analyst for ABC since the early 1980s and was a founding member on the panel of ABC's This Week with David Brinkley in 1981, now titled This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Will was also a regular panelist on television's Agronsky & Company from 1977 through 1984 and on NBC's Meet the Press in the mid-to-late 1970s. He left ABC to join Fox News in early October 2013.[8]

Political views

Foreign policy and national security

Will has proposed that the United States withdraw all troops from Afghanistan[9] and defended Barack Obama's response to the uprisings after the 2009 elections in Iran.[10] He also criticized the Bush administration for engaging in warrantless surveillance[11] and supported trials for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. On immigration, Will supports tighter border security and a "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants.[12]

Social issues

Will has argued that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision caused a "truncation of democratic debate about abortion policy".[13] On crime, Will is opposed to the death penalty,[14] but thinks that higher incarceration rates make the populace safer.[15] Additionally, Will is generally skeptical of affirmative action programs.[16] Will favors the legalization of drugs.[17]

Economic issues

Will supports low taxes, as he thinks that they stimulate economic growth and are more morally fair.[18] He was also opposed to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama's stimulus plans.[19] Will also supports abolishing the minimum wage [20] and creating voluntary personal retirement accounts in order to reduce the federal cost of Social Security.[21] In February 2013, Will wrote in support of a proposal by "relentlessly liberal" Sherrod Brown to break up consolidated banks and finance industry conglomerates, ending "Too big to fail" by restoring the Glass-Steagall Act.[22]

Criticism of Republican politicians

Despite his identification with conservative politics, Will has criticized fellow Republicans.

Will was among the first to oppose President George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the United States Supreme Court.

Even though Will had been hawkish in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he eventually expressed reservations about Bush administration Iraq policies, eventually openly criticizing what he perceived to be an unrealistically optimistic set of political scenarios. In March 2006, in a column written in the aftermath of the apparently sectarian bombing of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Baghdad, Will challenged the Bush administration—and U.S. government representatives in Iraq—to be more honest about the difficulties the United States faced in rebuilding and maintaining order within Iraq, comparing the White House's rhetoric unfavorably to that of Winston Churchill during the early years of World War II. Will described the optimistic assessments delivered from the Bush administration as the "rhetoric of unreality".[23] He criticized the Bush Iraq policy, and broader White House and congressional foreign and domestic policy making, in his keynote address for the Cato Institute's 2006 Milton Friedman Prize dinner.[24]

Will was also a harsh and early critic of both Sarah Palin and John McCain's 2008 election campaign. He criticized Palin's understanding of the role of the Vice President and her qualifications for that role.[25]

In late 2011, as the 2012 Republican Party presidential primaries approached, Will said that frontrunner Newt Gingrich "embodies almost everything disagreeable about modern Washington", and described him as "the classic rental politician.".[26]

In a 2013 interview with Reason Magazine writers Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, Will revealed that his views have steadily been leaning more libertarian over time.[27]


1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign

Main article: Debategate

Will's detractors complain about instances when Will has blurred the line between independent journalist and political advocate. Will helped Ronald Reagan prepare for his 1980 debate against Jimmy Carter. Immediately after the debate, Will—not yet a member of the ABC News staff—appeared on ABC's Nightline. He was introduced by host Ted Koppel, who said "It's my understanding that you met for some time yesterday with Governor Reagan", and that Will "never made any secret of his affection" for the Republican candidate. Will did not explicitly disclose that he had assisted Reagan's debate preparation, or been present during it. He went on to praise Reagan, saying his "game plan worked well. I don't think he was very surprised".[28]

In 2004 and again in 2005, Carter accused Will of giving the Reagan campaign a top-secret briefing book stolen from Carter's office before the 1980 debate.[29] In a 2005 syndicated column, Will called his role in Reagan's debate preparation "inappropriate" but denied any role in stealing the briefing book.[30] In response to Will's column, Carter wrote a letter to the Washington Post retracting his accusations. Carter apologized to Will for "any incorrect statement that I have ever made about his role in the use of my briefing book...I have never thought Mr. Will took my book, that the outcome of the debate was damaging to my campaign or that Mr. Will apologized to me".[31]

2003 Association with Conrad Black

Will was criticized for his dealings with Canadian-born British financier Conrad Black.[32] Will served on an informal board of advisors to Hollinger International, a newspaper company controlled by Black. The board met once a year and Will received an annual payment of $25,000. The board was disbanded in 2001. In March 2003, Will wrote a syndicated column which praised a speech by Black and did not disclose their previous business relationship.[33]

2008 Offshore drilling by China

In a Washington Post column on June 5, 2008, Will stated that "Drilling is underway 60 miles (97 km) off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are". This statement was incorrect. It was later quoted and subsequently withdrawn by Dick Cheney after Congressional Democrats, backed by energy experts, pointed out the error. House Leader John Boehner also cited the incorrect statement: "Right at this moment some 60 miles (97 km) or less off the coast of Key West, Fla., China has the green light to drill for oil."[34][35][36]

In a June 17, 2008 column, George Will issued a correction: "In a previous column, I stated that China, in partnership with Cuba, is drilling for oil 60 miles (97 km) from the Florida coast. While Cuba has partnered with Chinese companies to drill in the Florida Straits, no Chinese company has been involved in Cuba's oil exploration that close to the United States".

2009 global sea ice level

In a Washington Post column which expressed doubt over the effects of global warming, Will stated that: "According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979".[37] This and several other claims attracted the attention of environmentalists, such as British author and activist George Monbiot.[38] Asked to respond, the website of Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois states that: "We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979".[39] Will responded in a column that he accurately reported the Center's information and the challenge was mistaken.[40] This drew a second response from George Monbiot, who insisted Will had not accurately reported the Center's information.[41] The debate continued in several forums, including a subsequent op-ed by Chris Mooney published in The Washington Post challenging Will's assertions.[42]



Will has three children—Victoria, Geoffrey, and Jonathan—with his first wife, Madeleine;[43] Jonathan was born in 1972 with Down syndrome, which Will has written about in his column on occasion.[44][45][46] In 1989, he and Madeleine divorced after 22 years of marriage.[47]

In 1991 Will married Mari Maseng. They have one child, a son named David, born in 1992, and live in the Washington, D.C. area. Maseng is a political consultant and speechwriter who was in charge of communications for the Rick Perry 2012 presidential campaign. She earlier worked on Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign, and offered her services to the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign.[48][49] She previously worked for Reagan as a presidential speechwriter, deputy director of transportation, and Assistant to the President for Public Liaison. She also was a former communications director for Robert Dole.


Will is a fan of baseball, and has written extensively on the game, including his best-selling book Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. He was one of many interview subjects for Baseball, Ken Burns' PBS documentary series. He is a Chicago Cubs fan.[50][51]

Will revealed in a Colbert Report interview that he is an agnostic.[52]


In addition to more than 16 honorary degrees:

  • 1977 – Pulitzer Prize for Commentary
  • 1978 – Headliner Award for consistently outstanding feature columns
  • 1979 – Finalist for National Magazine Award in essays and criticism
  • 1980 – Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1991 – Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1991 – First Place in Interpretive Columns: Clarion Awards from Women in Communications
  • 1991 – Cronkite Award, Arizona State University
  • 1992 – Madison Medal Award, Princeton University
  • 1993 – William Allen White Award, William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas
  • 2003 – Walter B. Wriston Lecture Award, The Manhattan Institute
  • 2005 – Bradley Prize, The Bradley Foundation (
  • 2006 – Champion of Liberty Award, Goldwater Institute (


  • The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts. Harper & Row, 1978.
  • The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions. Simon & Schuster, 1982.
  • Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does. Simon & Schuster, 1983.
  • The Morning After: American Success and Excesses, 1981–1986. Free Press, 1986.
  • The New Season: A Spectator's Guide to the 1988 Election. Simon & Schuster, 1987.
  • Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. Macmillan, 1990.
  • Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home. Free Press, 1990.
  • Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy. 1992.
  • The Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture and Other News, 1990–1994. Viking, 1994.
  • The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric: 1994–1997. Scribner, 1997.
  • Bunts: Pete Rose, Curt Flood, Camden Yards and Other Reflections on Baseball. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  • With a Happy Eye But...: America and the World, 1997–2002. Free Press, 2002.
  • One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation. Crown Publishing Group, 2008.

See also



  • Alterman, Eric. Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy (1999) pp 87–105 online edition
  • Hoeveler, Jr. J. David Watch on the Right: Conservative Intellectuals in the Reagan Era (1991), chapter on Will.
  • (Will's column rebutting briefing book allegation)
  • (Carter alleges Will's role in briefing book theft, about 28:30 into the interview)
  • Carter Letter

External links

  • The Daily Beast
  • The Washington Post
  • Jewish World Review, October 1999 to August 2006
  • C-SPAN
    • , October 18, 1992
    • Speech at CPAC, February 1st, 2002
    • interview with Will, November 3, 2002
    • June 23rd, 2008
    • June 18th, 2009
    • Speech at CPAC: "American Conservative Union: 35th Annual CPAC", February 18th, 2010
    • A lecture by Will: "Competing Philosophies of Presidents Madison and Wilson", December 15th, 2010
    • A lecture by Will: "Relationship Between Religion and Politics", December 4th, 2012
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Template:NYTtopic
  • Notable Names Database
  • Washington Post Writers Group

Template:PulitzerPrize Commentary 1976–2000

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