Debra J. Saunders

Fellow, Chapman Center for Citizenship Leadership

A fellow with Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, Debra J. Saunders worked for more than thirty years covering politics on the ground and in Washington, as well as American culture, the news media, the criminal justice system, and dubious trends in public schools and prestigious universities. Her column is nationally syndicated with Creators Syndicate.

As a White House correspondent and columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Saunders followed then President Donald Trump from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, covered campaign rallies, the advent of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and was an active questioner in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. She also covered the early weeks of the Biden administration.

During her 24 years writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, Saunders reported on a diverse array of topics in local, national, and international politics including homelessness, dubious education trends like “new-new math,” and federal mandatory minimum sentencing. She successfully championed presidential pardons for a number of nonviolent federal drug offenders. In 2013, then President Barack Obama commuted a life sentence for one such individual, Clarence Aaron, after Saunders spent a dozen years advocating for his release.

Her work took her inside California prisons, including San Quentin’s death row, and opened the door for Saunders to interview California first dog Sutter Brown, spar with then Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown on his use of eminent domain, and wield the Savage Sword of Conan during a one-on-one interview with then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2002, the prestigious National Journal's "Talking Heads" column listed Saunders as a member of the A-team of top political journalists working outside the Beltway. Vaughn Ververs wrote, "An independent voice working for a left-leaning newspaper, Saunders covers California and national politics, as well as the state's political personalities. Her column is frequently a welcome change in tone from the rest of the editorial page, and she regularly throws punches at both sides."

From 1987 to 1992, Saunders served as a columnist and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News where she wrote on Los Angeles schools, crime, police, courts, and politics.

Saunders has written for national publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard and has appeared as a political commentator on national and international networks including BBC, Fox News and CNN.

She graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with a B.A. in Greek and Latin.


Israel at War

I've been to Israel four times. The first visit was a vacation in 2015. While many Americans experience Israel in a group during an extended tour, we traveled alone and booked day guides or specific tours. We started in Jerusalem, spent a day in Masada and the Dead Sea, spent the Sabbath in Tiberias and ended the trip in Tel Aviv.

The Covid Blame Game Lives On

It always was a mistake for Washington policymakers to target one dangerous and potentially fatal disease without factoring in the unintended consequences of draconian isolation, even if policymakers meant well.

Caps, Gowns and Rude Interruptions

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav had a message for students when he delivered a commencement address at Boston University Sunday: “Show up,” he said. Alas, a number of students at the ceremony had their own message: “Shut up, Zaslav.” Some shouted, “Pay your writers,” a reference to the current Writers Guild of America strike, which was announced on May 2 and has very little to do a college graduation. Other students stood up with their back to Zaslav. Some clapped. Some booed. Many of the adults who shared the stage with Zaslav just sat there, because, apparently, it didn’t bother them if overly entitled students tried to squelch Zaslav’s remarks. At first blush, heckling may seem like an improvement over

Biden Takes on Homelessness With Bromides

This month President Joe Biden released his homeless plan, “ALL IN: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” Be it noted, that the plan is dated December 2022, so it’s not exactly new. But this is something former President Donald Trump did as well — conduct numerous roll-outs for the same scheme. The Biden Administration touts a worthy goal — to reduce homelessness by 25% by January 2025. That’s more realistic than President Barack Obama’s 2013 pledge to end all homelessness by 2023. And Biden’s bound to get closer to his goal. But then, administrations never meet their goals on homelessness, so… What struck me about the Biden plan is how thin it is on specifics and rich it is in bromides. As in: “Homelessness has no

The Administrative State Can Put a Bug in Your Phone

In the age of cellphones and the internet, consumers often face a simple choice: convenience or privacy? Do we let Big Tech have access to our private communications and free email accounts because it's so easy? Once you've said yes — and who among us has not? — it's not a stretch to think that Big Data already has almost all your information, so why get picky at the next juncture?

Early Voting: Not Good

Think of the sacrifices our forebears made to expand the right to vote, because the franchise is precious. Now the goal is to make the exercise of voting not more robust, not more informed, but as easy as possible.

Trump Goes All Silent Treatment

Former President Donald Trump has every right to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as he did Wednesday during a civil deposition conducted by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The Rehabilitation of a Pariah

During his recent visit to Jeddah, Biden was left in the awkward position of having to sidle up to the "pariah" crown prince as he pressed the Saudis to pump more oil — a cheeky ask from the Democrat who shut down the Keystone XL pipeline.

Defund the Cartels

After a tractor-trailer packed with more than 60 migrants was found abandoned in San Antonio, reporters pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for a reaction. As of this writing, 53 have been declared dead.

California’s Epic Homeless Nightmare

What's the matter with California? "It's suffering from San Fransickness," which is "pathological altruism," answers Michael Shellenberger, author of the book "San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities."

Student Loans: Payment Optional

No one forced students to borrow thousands of dollars for pricey college tuition. So why should taxpayers pick up the tab for Americans who likely will make more money than non-college graduates?

The Masks are Off

The federal mask mandate on planes, trains and public transportation never was about "the science." It was about politics.

CNN Plus or Minus

As Forbes reported, in February CNN's viewership had declined by 54% from 2021. Fox News had an average audience of 2.634 million in February. MSNBC came in second with 1.194 million average viewers. CNN had 774,000 average viewers in February.

McConnell Is a Rock Star; Brooks Is a Groupie

As he seeks to fill an opening U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., boasted he wanted "to fire Mitch McConnell," the Senate minority leader whom Brooks called a "weak-kneed debt-junkie open-border RINO Republican" in a recent campaign ad.

Surrogate Babies of Ukraine Treated Like a Commodity

The video on the website for BioTexCom, aka the Center for Human Reproduction, features Ukrainian men driving babies born to surrogate mothers to bomb shelters where smiling caregivers cradle the precious cargo and keep the infants safe from Russian firepower. The company wants prospective parents to know that it is doing its utmost to shield these infants amid a war.

The People’s House — Without the People

It's been close to two years since Congress closed its doors to the public to slow the spread of COVID-19. While states and local governments are discarding their COVID-19 rules and shutdowns, the U.S. Capitol remains off-limits to the general public.