Ross Mackenzie

Do grades hold the key to cracking the college admissions code? Community service? Extracurriculars? Pull? Nope: esoteric essays. In an effort to move beyond drab topics for its mandatory admissions essay, the University of Chicago recently has asked applicants (a) to write something “somehow inspired by super-huge mustard” and (b) to “use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.” Uh-huh.

Question: If Gen. David Petraeus and increasing numbers of others are right that the “surge” strategy at last has turned the U.S. toward success in Iraq, why do some — notably in Congress and Hollywood, etc. — now want to change from a strategy that is working back to one that did not?

And mention of Gen. Petraeus invites speculation regarding the curious calculus of Sen. Hillary Clinton in voting against — (BEGIN ITALICS) against (END ITALICS) — a sense-of-the-Senate resolution deploring the ad that implied betrayal by the general in hauling hod for the Bush administration. The resolution carried easily, but a majority of the Democrats voting (Sen. Clinton among them) said essentially that the ad trashing Petraeus — an exercise in the Clinton-detested “politics of personal destruction” — was OK by them. She needs neither MoveOn’s money nor manpower. Maybe she simply deemed the ad fair game in the war of politics.

Finally, what is it about the Russians that they utter hardly a peep about President Vladimir Putin riding roughshod over friends and neighbors, but they go ballistic over a photo of Putin with his shirt off? On Aug. 15, a holidaying Putin was pictured shirtless along the Khemchik River in Siberia’s mountainous Tuva region. In the Russian mind, that’s apparently worse for a president to do than play roulette with members of his regime — the better to position his own successor.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

Be the first to read Ross Mackenzie's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.